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Will it work? Seattle mom first person to test coronavirus vaccine in US

Jennifer Haller covid-19 vaccine volunteer:
Pictured, Jennifer Haller Covid-19 vaccine volunteer. Screengrab.
Jennifer Haller covid-19 vaccine volunteer:
Pictured, Jennifer Haller Covid-19 vaccine volunteer. Screen-grab.

Jennifer Haller Covid-19 vaccine volunteer is first person given experimental Coronavirus vaccine at Seattle’s Kaiser Permanente Washington Research Institute. Will it work?

A Seattle mother of two has been the first person in the US to be given an experimental coronavirus vaccine, leading off a worldwide hunt for protection as the pandemic continues to surge.

Jennifer Haller, 43, a healthy volunteer, was jabbed at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Research Institute in Seattle on Monday as researchers anxiously awaited first-stage study of a potential COVID-19 vaccine.

The injection has been developed in record time after the new virus exploded from China and fanned across the globe.

‘We’re team coronavirus now,’ Kaiser Permanente study leader Dr. Lisa Jackson said on the eve of the experiment reports MSNBC. ‘Everyone wants to do what they can in this emergency.’ 

‘We all feel so helpless. This is an amazing opportunity for me to do something,’ Haller said as she awaited the shot.

The mother of two teenagers said ‘they think it’s cool’ that she’s taking part in the study. 

Three others were next in line for a test that will ultimately give 45 volunteers two doses, a month apart. 

Haller, an operations manager at a small tech company, said the shot was no more painful than an ordinary season flu vaccine reports Q13Fox.

Following the injection, Haller left the exam room, saying, ‘I’m feeling great.’

Even if the research goes well, a vaccine would not be available for widespread use for 12 to 18 months, said Dr. Anthony Fauci of the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

Still, finding a vaccine ‘is an urgent public health priority,’ Fauci said in a statement Monday. The new study, ‘launched in record speed, is an important first step toward achieving that goal.’

This vaccine candidate, code-named mRNA-1273, was developed by the NIH and Massachusetts-based biotechnology company Moderna Inc. There is no chance participants could get infected from the shots because they do not contain the coronavirus itself.

Of note, as of March 16, there had been 4134 cases of coronavirus cases in the US, with 71 deaths, as the pandemic continues to hit exponentially (see graph below).

Jennifer Haller covid-19 vaccine volunteer
Jennifer Haller covid-19 vaccine volunteer: incidence of coronavirus cases and deaths in the US.

Promising Covid-19 vaccines being tried out: 

Dozens of research groups around the world are racing to create a vaccine against COVID-19. Another candidate, made by Inovio Pharmaceuticals, is expected to begin its own safety study – in the U.S., China and South Korea – next month, the dailymail reports.

The Seattle experiment got underway days after the World Health Organization declared the new virus outbreak a pandemic because of its rapid global spread, infecting more than 169,000 people and killing more than 6,500.

COVID-19 has upended the world´s social and economic fabric since China first identified the virus in January, with regions shuttering schools and businesses, restricting travel, canceling entertainment and sporting events, and encouraging people to stay away from each other.

How Kaiser’s vaccine study is to be conducted:

Starting what scientists call a first-in-humans study is a momentous occasion for scientists, Kaiser Permanente study leader, Dr. Lisa Jackson described her team´s mood as ‘subdued.’ They´ve been working round-the-clock readying the research in a part of the U.S. struck early and hard by the virus.

Still, ‘going from not even knowing that this virus was out there … to have any vaccine’ in testing in about two months is unprecedented’, Jackson said. 

Some of the study’s carefully chosen healthy volunteers, ages 18 to 55, will get higher dosages than others to test how strong the inoculations should be. 

Scientists will check for any side effects and draw blood samples to test if the vaccine is revving up the immune system, looking for encouraging clues like the NIH earlier found in vaccinated mice.

‘We don’t know whether this vaccine will induce an immune response, or whether it will be safe. That´s why we´re doing a trial,’ Jackson stressed. ‘It´s not at the stage where it would be possible or prudent to give it to the general population.’

Most of the vaccine research under way globally targets a protein aptly named ‘spike’ that studs the surface of the new coronavirus and lets it invade human cells. Block that protein and people won´t get infected.

Researchers at the NIH copied the section of the virus’ genetic code that contains the instructions for cells to create the spike protein. Moderna encased that ‘messenger RNA’ into a vaccine.

The idea: The body will become a mini-factory, producing some harmless spike protein. When the immune system spots the foreign protein, it will make antibodies to attack and be primed to react quickly if the person later encounters the real virus.

That’s a much faster way of producing a vaccine than the traditional approach of growing virus in the lab and preparing shots from either killed or weakened versions of it.

But because vaccines are given to millions of healthy people, it takes time to test them in large enough numbers to spot an uncommon side effect, cautioned Dr. Nelson Michael of the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, which is developing a different vaccine candidate.

‘The science can go very quickly but, first, do no harm, right?’ he told reporters last week.

Seeing how antibodies react: 

the The Seattle research institute is part of a government network of centers that test all kinds of vaccines, and was chosen for the coronavirus vaccine study before COVID-19 began spreading widely in Washington state.

Kaiser Permanente screened dozens of people, looking for those who have no chronic health problems and aren´t currently sick. 

Researchers are not checking whether would-be volunteers already had a mild case of COVID-19 before deciding if they are eligible. 

If some did, scientists will be able to tell by the number of antibodies in their pre-vaccination blood test and account for that, Jackson said. Participants will be paid $100 for each clinic visit in the study.