Frank McGeorge, MD, Derick Hutchinson
DETROIT – Medical officials said one of their promising possible coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccines is showing encouraging results at this point in the process.
Early results show the vaccine developed by Massachusetts-based Moderna, in partnership with the National Institutes of Health, is generating the hoped-for response in early results.
These are preliminary results coming from a phase one study, experts said. This is the beginning of the process, but the findings are still promising.
Moderna has vaccinated 45 study participants so far and measured antibodies in eight of them, officials said.
According to the company, all eight of those participants have developed neutralizing antibodies to the virus at levels equal to or exceeding the levels seen in people who have naturally recovered from COVID-19.
Neutralizing antibodies bind to the virus, disabling it from attacking human cells.
“This is really a very first important step in the journey towards having a vaccine available for the people who need it the most,” said Dr. Tal Zaks, the chief medical officer for Moderna.
Moderna tested three doses of the vaccine. At the highest dose, three people developed fever and other flu-like symptoms.
Company officials said the actual vaccine dose would likely be between the low- and medium-sized doses tested.
In an earlier study, the vaccine stopped the virus from replicating in the lungs of mice, who were deliberately exposed to the coronavirus.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has cleared Moderna to begin phase two trials, which are expected to include several hundred people.
The company plans to start phase three trials, which typically include tens of thousands of participants, in July.
Zaks estimates that if everything goes well, the vaccine could be ready for the public as early as January 2021.
Plenty of vaccines pass the initial test but fail later in larger trials, and it’s important to remember it’s not yet clear if having antibodies will protect someone from the coronavirus.
Still, this is a positive first step.
Moderna is one of eight developers worldwide currently in human clinical trials with a coronavirus vaccine — two others in the United States, one at Oxford and four in China.
There are also nearly 90 other experimental coronavirus vaccines at earlier stages of development.
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