Volunteers hope vaccine will be found ‘sooner than later’

Updated March 19, 2020

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A pharmacist gives Jennifer Haller the first shot in the first-stage safety study clinical trial of a potential vaccine for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus on March 16, 2020. — AP
A pharmacist gives Jennifer Haller the first shot in the first-stage safety study clinical trial of a potential vaccine for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus on March 16, 2020. — AP

WASHINGTON: Two Americans who received trial shots of a coronavirus vaccine earlier this week had their second follow-ups on Wednesday and were now ready for another shot, the US media reported.

And China said on Wednesday it’s ready to start clinical trials of its own coronavirus vaccine, developed by researchers who worked in Wuhan, the ground zero of the pandemic.

Neal Browning and Jennifer Haller are from a group of 45 healthy individuals who have volunteered for a coronavirus vaccine trial in Washington state. The two were among the first to receive the vaccine.

Read: Coronavirus vaccine test opens with first doses in the US

They will go for a blood draw in a week, will have another draw done the week after that and in about a month, they will receive second shots and go through that process again.

In an interview to CNN, Mr Browning said he was doing this to “make this end as quickly as possible for the rest of the world.”

He said he was “healthy enough to … contribute to (this) research” and hoped that the researchers “find a vaccine sooner than later.”

Ms Haller said she was healthy, had the support of her family and friends and worked for a company that allowed her to work remotely, so she decided to volunteer for this vaccine.

“We all feel so helpless right now,” she told CNN. “I feel blessed that I actually am getting to do something here.”

In Beijing, China’s National Medical Products Administration announced approving tests for the country’s first COVID-19 vaccine, which was created by the Academy of Military Medical Sciences in Wuhan.

The vaccine trial, funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, started on Monday and would continue for six weeks. Phase I is aimed at establishing that the vaccine is safe and induces a desired response from participants’ immune systems. Then there will be more trials, which “may take many months,” before the vaccine is actually used to cure patients.

There is no actual virus in this vaccine. Researchers are using a new technique that teaches cells in a body to build protein structures that can counter the virus.

“We are a community of shared future for mankind, and vaccine is one of the most powerful scientific and technological weapons to end the novel coronavirus epidemic,” said Chen Wei, a top military biowarfare expert leading the team.

A media report from China noted that since arriving in Wuhan on Jan 26, the researchers have been racing to find a vaccine to protect people.

Ms Chen said she and her team had already prepared for large-scale production of the vaccine.

“In accordance with international standards and domestic laws and regulations, we have made preliminary preparations for its safety, effectiveness, controllable quality and mass production,” she said.

Published in Dawn, March 19th, 2020