The first vaccine trials for the deadly coronavirus began Monday.
Volunteers in Seattle received the first experimental shots to fight COVID-19 at a Kaiser Permanente health center, Fox News reports. While encouraging news, health officials have said that any vaccine would likely take up to 18 months to approve for public use, probably too late to be of any value in terms of the current pandemic.
“Finding a safe and effective vaccine to prevent infection with [the novel coronavirus] is an urgent public health priority,” National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci said in a statement Monday. “This Phase 1 study, launched in record speed, is an important first step toward achieving that goal.”
Coronavirus vaccine trials begin
With over 3,700 cases and some 60 mortalities in the United State thus far, the novel virus is already causing vast, unprecedented disruptions to daily life all across America. Adding to fear of the virus is a set of unknowns, including its true mortality rate and the absence of a vaccine.
As researchers around the world race to develop a vaccine, researchers in Seattle — the epicenter of the American outbreak — are beginning a six-week experimental trial on Monday, The Hill reports. The first tests of the vaccine known as mRNA-1273 were administered Monday at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Research Institute in Seattle, according to NBC News.
“We all feel so helpless. This is an amazing opportunity for me to do something,” volunteer Jennifer Haller, the first to receive the vaccine, told the Associated Press.
Forty-five healthy adult volunteers will receive two shots about a month apart. The experimental vaccine, produced jointly between the National Institutes of Health and Cambridge, Massachusetts company Moderna Inc., does not actually contain the coronavirus — so the subjects are safe.
For his part, Fauci has said that the coronavirus could be ten times deadlier than the seasonal flu, with an estimated death rate of 1%, according to CNBC. Most infected individuals develop only mild symptoms, but older patients and those with serious underlying health problems face greater risks.
Other research groups around the world continue working to develop a vaccine to counter the pandemic, which has now claimed over 6,500 lives and infected more than 160,000 worldwide. Fauci, President Donald Trump’s public face during the administration’s virus response, hailed the speed with which the “phase one” trial was prepared but lamented the inevitable delay in bringing a vaccine to market.
Because the arrival of a vaccine is probably too far away to blunt the impact of the developing pandemic, Americans have had to adjust to almost surreal conditions as the deadly pandemic affects nearly every facet of life.
Trump declared war on what he called the “invisible enemy” Monday afternoon and rolled out a series of guidelines for all Americans to follow, including avoid all bars and restaurants, avoid unnecessary travel, and stay away from groups larger than ten people, according to ABC News. The president declared:
If everyone makes this change or these critical changes and sacrifices now, we will rally together as one nation and we will defeat the virus, and we are going to have a big celebration altogether. With several weeks of focused action, we can turn the corner and turn it quickly — a lot of progress has been made.
With that said, yet another brutal day for the stock market concluded Monday as the Dow lost 3,000 points in its worst drop since the 1987 “Black Monday” crash, according to The Washington Post.