A US government official has said a clinical trial evaluating a vaccine designed to protect against the new coronavirus will begin today as the first participant receives the experimental vaccine. The trial is yet to be officially announced.
The National Institutes of Health is funding the trial, which is taking place at a Kaiser Permanente research facility in Washington state.
The official told the Associated Press testing will begin with 45 young, healthy volunteers with different doses of shots.
There’s no chance participants could get infected from the shots, because they don’t contain the virus itself.
Experts aim to check that the vaccines show no worrisome side effects before setting the stage for larger tests.
However, even if the tests go well, experts say it could take more than a year to develop and fully test a vaccine.
A number of pharmaceutical companies around the world are currently working on a vaccine for the coronavirus.
The deadly virus has infected more than 150,000 people and killed nearly 6,000.
One team at the University of Queensland in Australia announced last month that they had developed a potential vaccine and have begun testing on animals.
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Professor Paul Young, head of the university’s school of chemistry and molecular biosciences, said the team of 20 had been working “around the clock” to speed up the process.
The team have been identifying and replicating a key protein in the virus – which forms basis of their vaccine candidate – within just three weeks.
Inovio Pharmaceuticals also aims to begin safety tests of its vaccine candidate next month.
This will be done on a few dozen volunteers at the University of Pennsylvania and a testing centre in Kansas City, Missouri, followed by a similar study in China and South Korea.
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There are at currently at least 3,485 cases of the novel coronavirus across the US according to state and local health agencies governments and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
In total, 65 people have died from the novel coronavirus in the US.
Several US states and cities have announced widespread closures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
It has been announced announced that “more than 2,000 labs” in the US will have high-speed testing capacity by Monday.
Meanwhile in the UK, Public Health England has ruled out coronavirus testing for frontline NHS staff unless they are admitted to hospital suffering suspected pneumonia or acute respiratory illness.
The news comes after it was revealed yesterday that yet another healthcare worker had tested positive for COVID-19. Health officials are now looking for anyone who may have come into contact with the paramedic.
The worker is an East of England Ambulance Service paramedic from Hertfordshire.
Now, the NHS has warned nurses, doctors, paramedics and other frontline staff to self-isolate if they develop any coronavirus symptoms such as a cough or a fever.
At least six other healthcare workers – including one GP and an A&E doctor – have already been infected since the UK’s crisis began in January.
However, they have ruled out testing for staff unless they are admitted to hospital themselves, suffering suspected pneumonia or acute respiratory illness.
Moreover, the NHS has told staff that in the event of “an established significant epidemic”, the organisation will be put under “extreme pressure”.
Officials acknowledge that staff shortages will occur due to “sickness or caring responsibilities”.
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