Ex­per­i­men­tal COVID-19 vac­cine is put to its big­gest test yet

Chicago Sun-Times - - TOP NEWS - BY LAURAN NEERGAARD, MICHAEL HILL AND JOCELYN NOVECK

The big­gest test yet of an ex­per­i­men­tal COVID-19 vac­cine got un­der­way Mon­day with the first of some 30,000 Amer­i­cans rolling up their sleeves to re­ceive shots cre­ated by the U.S. govern­ment as part of the all-out global race to stop the pan­demic.

Fi­nal-stage test­ing of the vac­cine, de­vel­oped by the Na­tional In­sti­tutes of Health and Moderna Inc., be­gan with vol­un­teers at nu­mer­ous sites around the U.S. given ei­ther a real dose or a dummy with­out be­ing told which.

“I’m ex­cited to be part of some­thing like this. This is huge,” said Melissa Hart­ing, a 36-year-old nurse who re­ceived an in­jec­tion in Bing­ham­ton, New York. Es­pe­cially with fam­ily mem­bers in front-line jobs that could ex­pose them to the virus, she added, “Do­ing our part to erad­i­cate it is very im­por­tant to me.”

An­other com­pany, Pfizer Inc., an­nounced late Mon­day that it had started its own study of its vac­cine can­di­date in the U.S. and else­where. That study also aimed to re­cruit 30,000 peo­ple.

It will be months be­fore re­sults trickle in, and there is no guar­an­tee the vac­cines will ul­ti­mately work against the scourge that has killed more than 650,000 peo­ple around the world, in­clud­ing al­most 150,000 in the U.S.

“We’ve been sit­ting on the side­lines pas­sively at­tempt­ing to wear our masks and so­cial dis­tance and not go out when it’s not nec­es­sary. This is the first step of be­com­ing ac­tive against this,” said Dr. Frank Eder of Merid­ian Clin­i­cal Re­search, the com­pany that runs the Bing­ham­ton trial site. “There’s re­ally no other way to get past this.”

As if to un­der­line how high the stakes are, there were more set­backs in ef­forts to con­tain the coro­n­avirus.

In Wash­ing­ton, the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion dis­closed that na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser Robert O’Brien has the virus — the high­es­trank­ing U.S. of­fi­cial to test pos­i­tive so far. The White House said he has mild symp­toms and “has been self-iso­lat­ing and work­ing from a se­cure lo­ca­tion off site.”

Two Ma­jor League Base­ball games sched­uled for Mon­day night were called off as the Mi­ami Mar­lins coped with an out­break. And in Europe, ris­ing in­fec­tions in Spain and other coun­tries caused alarm only weeks af­ter na­tions re­opened their bor­ders in hopes of re­viv­ing tourism.

HANS PEN­NINK/AP

Nurse Kathe Olm­stead pre­pares a shot in Bing­ham­ton, New York, as the world’s big­gest study of a pos­si­ble COVID-19 vac­cine gets un­der­way.

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