This Shot Could Be Milestone in Coronavirus Fight

It's the first given in a human trial, but experts caution any vaccine could be a year away
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 16, 2020 1:29 PM CDT
This Shot Could Be Milestone in Coronavirus Fight
A pharmacist gives Jennifer Haller, left, 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, Monday, March 16, 2020, at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle.   (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

By all accounts, the world has a long wait before a workable coronavirus vaccine is ready. But on Monday, a potentially vital first step took place in Seattle. A technician jabbed 43-year-old Jennifer Haller with a needle, making her the first person to receive a shot in a test of an experimental vaccine, reports the AP. That a human trial has started already marks an incredibly fast turnaround, but Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health has warned that it could be 12 to 18 months before we see widespread use of any resulting vaccine—and that's only if things go well with the research. Still, he hailed the start of the Seattle trial as a significant development.

  • The vaccine: This one is from the biotech company Moderna of Massachusetts. The test is being conducted at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Research Institute in Seattle, and 45 volunteers will get shots, per CNBC. They're not in danger of getting the coronavirus because the vaccine does not contain the virus itself.
  • Haller: The first recipient of a shot is an operations manager at a small tech firm and the mother of two teenagers. “We all feel so helpless," she tells the AP. "This is an amazing opportunity for me to do something." Her kids thinks it's "cool" she's taking part in the trial.

  • Slow online start: An online project by a Google sister company aimed at helping people find and book coronavirus tests has gone live on a very limited scale, reports the Washington Post. As in, the Verily site is working only for people in California's San Mateo or Santa Clara counties. If all goes well, the pilot will be expanded and would ideally allow people to book appointments online based on their location.
  • Worldwide effort: By the count of the Guardian, 35 companies and academic institutions around the world are currently working on a vaccine. One reason for the fast work is that China sequenced the genetic material of this coronavirus strain in January and shared it with the world. Another is that the world has experience dealing with earlier coronaviruses.
  • German controversy: Media reports in Germany say President Trump offered a Germany medical company working on a potential vaccine of its own a vast sum to move its work to the US, reports the New York Times. The allegations involving the company CureVac, which have incensed German politicians, arose after the company's chief executive, American Daniel Menichella, visited the White House on March 2. Last week, CureVac announced he was leaving the company, but did not cite a reason. The White House hasn't formally responded, but two officials tell the Times that initial media coverage in Germany was overstated.
(Read more coronavirus stories.)

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