A person in Seattle received a trial vaccine for the coronavirus as part of a clinical trial Monday, as scientists race to thwart the pathogen that’s wreaking human and economic havoc.
The National Institutes of Health said it will enroll 45 healthy adults ages 18 to 55 in the phase-one trial at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute.
“Finding a safe and effective vaccine to prevent infection with [the new coronavirus] is an urgent public health priority,” said Anthony S. Fauci, of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “This Phase 1 study, launched in record speed, is an important first step toward achieving that goal.”
The vaccine is called mRNA-1273. It was developed by scientists at the infectious-disease arm of the National Institutes of Health and biotech company Moderna, Inc., in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
The vaccine model uses what’s known as messenger RNA and has shown promise in animal studies, but it hasn’t been used on humans. This trial will test various dosages of the investigation vaccine.
The hope is to produce a robust immune response to the coronavirus that was discovered in Wuhan, China, in December and has since infected nearly 180,000 people worldwide and over 4,000 in the U.S.
The virus causes a disease, COVID-19, that is mild in some but can cause severe respiratory distress and death, particularly in older people or those with underlying medical conditions.
Over 7,000 people have died from the illness worldwide.
There is no cure or vaccine for COVID-19, and scientists say it could take a year to a year and a half before there is a shot for widespread use.
The first participant received the shot on Monday, though the study will consist of follow-up visits over the course of a year.
Coronaviruses tend to be seasonal, so landing a vaccine will be vital in preventing infections in future years.