A vaccine is needed to put an end to the COVID-19 pandemic that has sickened millions and took lives of 575,000 people worldwide. Moderna Inc was the first to start human testing of a vaccine for the novel pathogen on March 16, 66 days after the genetic sequence of the virus was released. A study’s details published by the team in the New England Journal of Medicine.
According to the study conducted by the US researchers, Moderna Inc’s experimental vaccine for COVID-19 showed it was safe and- what is more important- provoked immune responses in all 45 healthy volunteers in an ongoing early-stage study.
The U.S. government is supporting Moderna’s vaccine with nearly half a billion dollars and has chosen it as one of the first to enter large-scale human trials.
The results released Tuesday involved three doses of the vaccine, tested in groups of 15 volunteers aged 18-55 who got two shots, 28 days apart. The groups tested 25, 100 or 250 micrograms of the vaccine.
Volunteers who got two doses of the vaccine had high levels of virus-killing antibodies that exceeded the average levels seen in people who had recovered from Covid-19. Moderna’s shot, mRNA-1273, uses ribonucleic acid (RNA) – a chemical messenger that contains instructions for making proteins.
As Reuters says, no study volunteers experienced a serious side effect, but more than half reported mild or moderate reactions such as fatigue, headache, chills, muscle aches or pain at the injection site. As the researchers stressed, these were more likely to occur after the second dose and in people who got the highest dose.
Dr Fauci called Moderna results “good news”
Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, whose researchers developed Moderna’s vaccine candidate, called the results “good news”.
The health official emphasized that the study found no serious adverse events and the Moderna vaccine produced “reasonably high” levels of virus-killing or neutralizing antibodies.
“If your vaccine can induce a response comparable with natural infection, that’s a winner,” Fauci told to reporters in a phone interview. “That’s why we’re very pleased by the results.”
When injected into people, the vaccine instructs cells to make proteins that mimic the outer surface of the coronavirus, which the body recognizes as a foreign invader, and mounts an immune response against.
Moderna shares jumped more than 15% in after-hours trading on Tuesday.
In April, Moderna expanded the Phase 1 trial to include adults over 55 with the aim of enrolling 120 volunteers. The phase 2 trial started in May and expects to start a phase 3 trial on July 27.
Phase 2 trials test a treatment in a larger group and get an early read on effectiveness.
Phase 3 trials are conducted in a large group of individuals to confirm efficacy and identify rare side effects. Moderna’s Phase 3 trial will be conducted in 30,000 volunteers.