So much for the COVID-19 vaccine optimism

The path to full development of Moderna's candidate vaccine will be long, hard and expensive. In a Phase I trial, healthy volunteers receive differing amounts of the vaccine, and are monitored for any side effects. The recipients tolerated the vaccine well, with no major health issues.

Experts agree that it is essential to develop multiple vaccines because the urgent global need for billions of doses will far outstrip the production capacity of any one manufacturer.

Drugmaker Moderna Inc surged by 19.96 percent after the company said its experimental COVID-19 vaccine showed promising results in a small early-stage trial.

The company said that three patients at the highest dose level experienced some discomfort, including fever, after receiving their second dose of the vaccine.

The phase 1 trial took place at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle, where it reportedly tested the vaccine on 45 males and nonpregnant females within the ages of 18 to 55. As CNN previously reported, Moderna "has never brought a product to market, or gotten any of its nine or so vaccine candidates approved for use by the FDA" and has "never brought a product to the third and final phase of a clinical trial". The press release goes on to note that the potential COVID-19 vaccination "elicited neutralizing antibodies in all eight of [the study's] participants, as measured by plaque reduction neutralization (PRNT) assays against live SARS-CoV-2". To be fair, Moderna did not say and could not have even had it wished to do so, due to the difficulty of testing for such antibodies and the fact that it had to be done in high-security laboratories.

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Those 45 participants were divided into three groups that received different doses of the vaccine: 25 micrograms (µg), 100 µg and 250 µg. Those in the low- and medium-dose groups received two doses about a month apart, in order to properly prime the immune system for the most robust response.

It is notable that Dr. Moncef Slaoui, who previously served on the Board of Directors at Moderna, was selected as Chief Scientist for Trump's "Operation Warp Speed" committee. "The sense is at the end of the day we're going to narrow it down on somewhere between 25 and 100", he says.

Quicky Science lesson for you, RNA is in between DNA and proteins, which allows immune cells to take up foreign DNA that causes them to produce the essential viral proteins and trigger an immune response.

"The lower the dose, the more vaccine we'll be able to make", Dr Zaks said.

The Chinese company CanSino Biologics has become the first contender to move its candidate vaccine - Ad5-nCoV - into a phase two clinical trial, which is taking place in Wuhan. The researchers found that at two lower dose levels used in the study, levels of antibodies found after getting a second booster shot of the vaccine either equaled or exceeded the levels of antibodies found in patients who had recovered from the virus. How many doses might be ready is not clear, but Zaks said, "We're doing our best to make it as many millions as possible".

  • Ismael Montgomery