The first COVID-19 vaccine tested in the US revved up people’s immune systems just the way scientists had hoped, researchers reported Tuesday—as the shots are poised to begin key final testing. “No matter how you slice this, this is good news,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, tells the AP. The experimental vaccine, developed by Fauci’s colleagues at the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc., will start its most important step around July 27: A 30,000-person study to prove if the shots really are strong enough to protect against the coronavirus. But Tuesday, researchers reported anxiously awaited findings from the first 45 volunteers who rolled up their sleeves back in March. Sure enough, the vaccine provided a hoped-for immune boost.
story continues below
Those early volunteers developed what are called neutralizing antibodies in their bloodstream—molecules key to blocking infection—at levels comparable to those found in people who survived COVID-19, the research team reported in the New England Journal of Medicine. There’s no guarantee, but the government hopes to have results around the end of the year—record-setting speed for developing a vaccine. The vaccine requires two doses, a month apart. There were no serious side effects. But more than half the study participants reported flu-like reactions to the shots that aren’t uncommon with other vaccines—fatigue, headache, chills, fever, and pain at the injection site. Nearly two dozen possible COVID-19 vaccines are in various stages of testing around the world. Candidates from China and Britain’s Oxford University also are entering final testing stages.
(Read more coronavirus vaccine stories.)