More than 30,000 volunteers have been enrolled in two large COVID-19 vaccine trials in the United States, officials said on Friday.
“We think we are absolutely on the right track, if not a little ahead” of the goal of developing a safe and effective vaccine and producing tens of millions of doses by the end of the year, Paul Mango, deputy chief of staff for policy at the US Department of Health and Human Services, said on a call with reporters.
The two vaccine makers, Moderna and Pfizer, aim to recruit a total of 60,000 volunteers for their Phase 3 trials. Mango said the recruitment was half-finished, but he did not specify the number of people in each. trial. AstraZeneca, in partnership with the UK University of Oxford, has also started Phase 3 trials of its COVID-19 vaccine, with study sites in the United States.
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Still, “there is no guarantee in science,” Mango noted. It is always possible that the vaccines tested may not be effective.
President Donald Trump pledged swift work on a vaccine during his Thursday night address to the Republican National Convention, saying the nation “will produce a vaccine before the end of the year, or maybe even sooner.”
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Officials predicted that research would stay on track even if Trump loses re-election.
“The vast majority of people working on Operation Warp Speed are not people appointed by the Trump administration,” Mango said.
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It is clear that a single vaccine will not be enough to meet the anticipated demand. Some vaccines may be better suited for certain populations, such as the elderly or people with weakened immune systems, said Dr Gregory Poland, an infectious disease expert who heads the Vaccine Research Group of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.
“Young children are different from adults and different from older adults,” said Poland, adding that groups such as pregnant women and people who are immunocompromised or have autoimmune diseases may also react differently.
Phase 3 trials should help answer these questions.
Mango said officials felt “very good” about the diversity of entries. “We have a huge number of people over 65. We have a lot of people with multiple chronic conditions. We have a Hispanic participation, we have an African-American participation, ”he said.
Half of the study participants will receive the vaccine and the other half will receive a placebo. Who will get which version will be unknown to researchers and participants.
Mango predicted that additional vaccines could enter larger trials, possibly by next month.
In the meantime, Poland recalled that proven protective measures still work: “If people followed the simple advice to wear a mask, physically distance themselves and disinfect their hands, you can be protected from this. “
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