Clinical Trial of COVID-19 Vaccine Begins in Seattle
Clinical Trial of COVID-19 Vaccine Begins in Seattle

Clinical Trial of COVID-19 Vaccine Begins in Seattle

The first volunteer will receive a shot of the synthetic RNA vaccine today.

Amy Schleunes
Amy Schleunes
Mar 16, 2020

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The first participant in a clinical trial for a COVID-19 vaccine conducted by the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle will be given an experimental dose today (March 16), reports the Associated Press. The trial is being funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and includes 45 young, healthy volunteers who will receive different doses of the vaccine that was co-developed by the NIH and Moderna.

Worldwide, dozens of research groups are attempting to develop coronavirus vaccines. These groups are pursuing different types of vaccines, some of which use new technologies that may make the immunization both faster to produce and more potent against the virus. Some researchers are also pursuing temporary vaccines that could offer protection for a few months as longer-lasting alternatives are developed.

See “Newer Vaccine Technologies Deployed to Develop COVID-19 Shot

Inovio Pharmaceuticals plans to test its vaccine on volunteers at the University of Pennsylvania and at a testing center in Kansas City, Missouri, next month, reports the AP.

The participants in the trial in Seattle cannot become infected because the vaccine does not contain the virus or an attenuated version of the virus, according to The Guardian. Instead, the shot contains synthetic RNA transcripts that code for a viral protein in hopes that the recipients’ cells will translate the mRNA into protein and their immune systems will respond and develop immunity against subsequent encounters with the protein.

Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, tells the AP that even if initial safety tests go well, “you’re talking about a year to a year and a half” before a vaccine could be ready for widespread use. 

In early March, President Donald Trump met with the head of the German biotech company CureVac, which is a developing a coronavirus vaccine, and later offered a “large amount” of money in order to “secure its work,” according to a translated version of the German newspaper Welt am Sonntag. The New York Times reports that two senior American officials say some German news accounts were overblown regarding the United States’s alleged efforts to acquire exclusive access to the vaccine. One official states that the Trump administration has spoken to more than 25 companies and is open to speaking with others. He says any solution to the pandemic would be shared with the world.

More than 6,500 people worldwide have now died from the coronavirus, according to Reuters, with a total of 156 countries outside of China reporting infections. Sixty people have died in the United States, where more than 3,600 individuals have become infected.

Amy Schleunes is an intern at The Scientist. Email her at aschleunes@the-scientist.com.