ALL NEWS

Coronavirus vaccine test opens as US volunteer gets 1st shot

Mar 16, 2020, 10:41 AM | Updated: 10:41 am
Dr. Lisa Jackson, a senior investigator at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institu...
Dr. Lisa Jackson, a senior investigator at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute, poses for a photo, Sunday, March 15, 2020, in Seattle. Jackson is leading the first-stage safety study clinical trial of a potential vaccine for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, which was given to the first volunteer in the study by injection, Monday, March 16 in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

SEATTLE (AP) — U.S. researchers gave the first shot to the first person in a test of an experimental coronavirus vaccine Monday — leading off a worldwide hunt for protection even as the pandemic surges.

With a careful jab in a healthy volunteer’s arm, scientists at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Research Institute in Seattle begin an anxiously awaited first-stage study of a potential COVID-19 vaccine developed in record time after the new virus exploded from China and fanned across the globe.

“We’re team coronavirus now,” Kaiser Permanente study leader Dr. Lisa Jackson said on the eve of the experiment. “Everyone wants to do what they can in this emergency.”

The Associated Press observed as the study’s first participant, an operations manager at a small tech company, received the injection inside an exam room. Several others were next in line for a test that will ultimately give 45 volunteers two doses, a month apart.

“We all feel so helpless. This is an amazing opportunity for me to do something,” said Jennifer Haller, 43, of Seattle.

She’s the mother of two teenagers and “they think it’s cool” that she’s taking part in the study.

Monday’s milestone marked just the beginning of a series of studies in people needed to prove whether the shots are safe and could work. Even if the research goes well, a vaccine wouldn’t be available for widespread use for 12 to 18 months, said Dr. Anthony Fauci of the U.S. National Institutes of Health. That’s still important if the virus becomes a long-term threat.

This vaccine candidate, code-named mRNA-1273, was developed by the NIH and Massachusetts-based biotechnology company Moderna Inc. There’s no chance participants could get infected from the shots because they don’t contain the coronavirus itself.

It’s not the only potential vaccine in the pipeline. Dozens of research groups around the world are racing to create a vaccine against COVID-19. Another candidate, made by Inovio Pharmaceuticals, is expected to begin its own safety study — in the U.S., China and South Korea — next month.

The Seattle experiment got underway days after the World Health Organization declared the new virus outbreak a pandemic because of its rapid global spread, infecting more than 169,000 people and killing more than 6,500.

COVID-19 has upended the world’s social and economic fabric since China first identified the virus in January, with regions shuttering schools and businesses, restricting travel, canceling entertainment and sporting events, and encouraging people to stay away from each other.

Starting what scientists call a first-in-humans study is a momentous occasion for scientists, but Jackson described her team’s mood as “subdued.” They’ve been working round-the-clock readying the research in a part of the U.S. struck early and hard by the virus.

Still, “going from not even knowing that this virus was out there … to have any vaccine” in testing in about two months is unprecedented, Jackson told The AP.

Some of the study’s carefully chosen healthy volunteers, ages 18 to 55, will get higher dosages than others to test how strong the inoculations should be. Scientists will check for any side effects and draw blood samples to test if the vaccine is revving up the immune system, looking for encouraging clues like the NIH earlier found in vaccinated mice.

“We don’t know whether this vaccine will induce an immune response, or whether it will be safe. That’s why we’re doing a trial,” Jackson stressed. “It’s not at the stage where it would be possible or prudent to give it to the general population.”

Most of the vaccine research under way globally targets a protein aptly named “spike” that studs the surface of the new coronavirus and lets it invade human cells. Block that protein and people won’t get infected.

Researchers at the NIH copied the section of the virus’ genetic code that contains the instructions for cells to create the spike protein. Moderna encased that “messenger RNA” into a vaccine.

The idea: The body will become a mini-factory, producing some harmless spike protein. When the immune system spots the foreign protein, it will make antibodies to attack — and be primed to react quickly if the person later encounters the real virus.

That’s a much faster way of producing a vaccine than the traditional approach of growing virus in the lab and preparing shots from either killed or weakened versions of it.

But because vaccines are given to millions of healthy people, it takes time to test them in large enough numbers to spot an uncommon side effect, cautioned Dr. Nelson Michael of the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, which is developing a different vaccine candidate.

“The science can go very quickly but, first, do no harm, right?” he told reporters last week.

The Seattle research institute is part of a government network of centers that test all kinds of vaccines, and was chosen for the coronavirus vaccine study before COVID-19 began spreading widely in Washington state.

Kaiser Permanente screened dozens of people, looking for those who have no chronic health problems and aren’t currently sick. Researchers aren’t checking whether would-be volunteers already had a mild case of COVID-19 before deciding if they’re eligible. If some did, scientists will be able to tell by the number of antibodies in their pre-vaccination blood test and account for that, Jackson said. Participants will be paid $100 for each clinic visit in the study.

___

Neergaard reported from Washington, D.C.

___

The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Today’s Top Stories

All News

America First Credit Union gives back to Utah students....
Waverly Golden

America First Credit Union donates 2,700 pairs of shoes to Utah students

This holiday season AFCU aims to give back 1,000 hours of service to the community as part of their Warm the Soles of Kids program.
7 hours ago
The Salt Lake County Sheriff’s office is being sued after what started with a Snapchat request in...
Hugo Rikard-Bell

Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office being sued after former cadet reports abuse

A former Salt Lake County Sheriff deputy and academy instructor allegedly committed numerous sexual assaults against a former cadet.
1 day ago
Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock speaks during an election day canvass launch on Tuesday, Dec. 6, 20...
The Associated Press

Democratic Sen. Warnock wins Georgia runoff against Walker

The Associated Press has projected Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock as the winner of the Georgia runoff election.
1 day ago
Salt Lake Express...
Mark Jones

Salt Lake Express announces new route to Reno, Nevada

Salt Lake Express is now offering service to Reno, Nevada. The route began Dec. 1 after months of working with the Nevada Department of Transportation.
1 day ago
The Utah Department of Public Safety issued an apology to the family of a woman who was allegedly r...
Thomas Haraldsen

DPS offers apology to family of rape victim from more than 50 years ago

The Utah Department of Public Safety issued an apology to the family of a woman who was allegedly raped by a UHP officer over 50 years ago.
1 day ago
The Salt Lake City Police Department announced its response times for the month of November improve...
Mark Jones

Salt Lake City Police announce response times for November

The Salt Lake City Police Department announced its response times for the month of November improved by 12 minutes and 15 seconds compared to November 2021. 
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Spicy Homemade Loaded Taters Tots...
Macey's

5 game day snacks for the whole family (with recipes!)

Try these game day snacks to make watching football at home with your family feel like a special occasion. 
Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...
Sorenson

The best tools for Deaf and hard-of-hearing workplace success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...
Macey's

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
christmas decorations candles in glass jars with fir on a old wooden table...
Western Nut Company

12 Mason Jar Gift Ideas for the 12 Days of Christmas [with recipes!]

There are so many clever mason jar gift ideas to give something thoughtful to your neighbors or friends. Read our 12 ideas to make your own!
wide shot of Bear Lake with a person on a stand up paddle board...

Pack your bags! Extended stays at Bear Lake await you

Work from here! Read our tips to prepare for your extended stay, whether at Bear Lake or somewhere else nearby.
young boy with hearing aid...
Sorenson

Accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing

These different types of accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing can help them succeed in school.
Coronavirus vaccine test opens as US volunteer gets 1st shot