The first human trial to evaluate a possible vaccine against the new coronavirus has begun in Seattle, US health officials said Monday, raising hopes in the global fight against the disease.
But it may be another year to 18 months before it becomes available, once it has passed more trial phases to prove it works and is safe.
The vaccine, called mRNA-1273, was developed by US National Institutes of Health (NIH) scientists and collaborators at the biotechnology company Moderna, which is based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
“The open-label trial will enroll 45 healthy adult volunteers ages 18 to 55 years over approximately 6 weeks,” the NIH said. “The first participant received the investigational vaccine today.”
Funding was also provided by the Oslo-based Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI).
There are currently no approved vaccines or treatments against the coronavirus disease, known as COVID-19, which has infected more than 175,000 people across the world since it was first identified in central China in late December.
The virus has claimed 7,000 victims, with the most in China, closely followed by Italy.
“Finding a safe and effective vaccine to prevent infection with SARS-CoV-2 is an urgent public health priority,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of infectious diseases at the NIH, using the technical name for the virus that is believed to have originated in bats.
“This Phase 1 study, launched in record speed, is an important first step toward achieving that goal.”