- An early COVID-19 vaccine is quickly being readied for human trials.
- The company behind the drug, Moderna, hoped to have human testing underway by summer, but now says it could begin within weeks.
- Even if the vaccine is safe and effective, it will still take many months before it’s widely available.
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One of the first US companies to come up with a viable vaccine candidate for the COVID-19 pandemic is rapidly approaching its first human trials. The treatment was developed by Moderna, which provided the National Institutes of Health with samples of its vaccine in preparation for the eventual trials that will determine whether it is effective in preventing the virus from infecting a patient.
Initially, it was believed that the trials wouldn’t be able to begin until summer, but that timeline has dramatically shifted. The priority now is finding a treatment that works, but even if Moderna’s drug is effective, that doesn’t mean it’ll be available any time soon.
As CNBC reports, the updated timeframe was provided by health officials during a government hearing on Thursday.
“We said that it would take two to three months to have it in the first human,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told lawmakers. “I think we’re going to do better than that. I would hope within a few weeks we may be able to make an announcement to you all that we’ve given the first shot to the first person.”
This is obviously good news, but there are plenty of unanswered questions remaining. For starters, we don’t even know if the vaccine will prove effective in preventing infection, and if it is, what level of protection it will provide. Additionally, testing the drug on a variety of people takes time and helps suss out potential side effects, so the waiting game will continue for some time.
“I want to make sure people understand, and I’ve said that over and over again, that does not mean we have a vaccine that we can use,” Fauci added. “We mean it’s record time to get it tested. It’s going to take a year to a year and a half to really know if it works.”
Even in a best-case scenario where the drug is safe and effective against the virus, producing it on a large scale and getting it into the hands of doctors and healthcare workers might not happen for another 18 months, or possibly even longer.
Moderna isn’t the only company working on a vaccine for COVID-19, and there have been promising developments from other biotech firms as well. However, each of these vaccines will have to clear the same hurdles before they can be put to use, and the fact remains that right now we have no drug that combats the virus.