A vaccine against COVID-19 is entering its final stage of testing following promising results, according to Dr Anthony Fauci, the US government’s top infectious disease expert, who said: “No matter how you slice this, this is good news.”
Developed at the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc, the crucial stage of the trial begins around July 27 - a 30,000-person study, to find out if the injections are strong enough to protect against coronavirus.
The first 45 volunteers who underwent testing with the vaccine were found to have had an immune system boost, as scientists had hoped.
Those volunteers, who were given the vaccine in March, developed neutralising antibodies in their bloodstream, at levels comparable to those who have survived COVID-19, according to the research team, in a report in the New England Journal of Medicine.
“This is an essential building block that is needed to move forward with the trials that could actually determine whether the vaccine does protect against infection,” said Dr Lisa Jackson of the Kaiser Permanente Washington Research Institute in Seattle, who led the study.
There is no guarantee but the government hopes to have results around the end of the year, which is a record-setting speed for developing a vaccine.
More than half of the volunteers reported getting flu-like symptoms - such as fatigue, headache, chills and fever - which are not uncommon with other vaccinations. Researchers said the reactions last about a day and occur right after the vaccination.
The results of the study, released on Tuesday, only include younger adults. For older adults who have taken part, the results are not yet public.
Meanwhile, Russia announced on Wednesday it had completed first clinical trials of a vaccine at the Russian Ministry of Defence and the Nikolai Gamalaya Research Centre for Epidemiology and Microbiology.
The trials, which began in mid-June, involved volunteers consisting mainly of Russian military personnel, but also civilians.
The first group of 18 volunteers "has finished its participation and left the hospital," the Russian Ministry of Defense said Wednesday in a statement.
The volunteers spent 28 days in hospital after the vaccination, undergoing daily examinations.
During this period, the vital functions of their bodies remained "within the limits of normal", without "any serious adverse effects or complications being recorded", the statement said.
"Their immunity is good, the antibodies are being formed and they are protected against the coronavirus," said Svetlana Voltchikhina, a medical therapist who is co-leading the tests, in a video broadcast by the Ministry of Defence.
Nearly two dozen possible COVID-19 vaccines are in various stages of testing around the world. Candidates from China and the University of Oxford are also entering final testing stages.