WebMD News Brief

Seniors Recruited for Coronavirus Vaccine Trials

Coronavirus

April 21, 2020 - Older adults are being recruited for clinical trials of a coronavirus vaccine in Seattle, Atlanta and Bethesda, MD.

There is no vaccine on the market now for the coronavirus, which has killed more than 40,000 Americans as of Monday, according to Johns Hopkins University. The virus is thought to be especially dangerous for older people because of their weakened immune systems and underlying medical conditions. Experts don’t expect a vaccine to be available to the public until next year.

Phase one of the trials started March 16 and involved adults 18 to 55 years old at Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle and Emory University in Atlanta, according to a news release from Emory.

Researchers are expanding the trials to include 30 adults 56-70 years old and 30 adults ages 71 and older. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases’ (NIAID) Vaccine Research Center (VRC) clinic at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Clinical Center in Bethesda has been added as a trial site.

Older adults who are accepted into the trials will receive two shots of the experimental vaccine about a month apart, with a follow-up after about a year. The biotechnology company Moderna developed the experimental vaccine, called mRNA-1273.

“Older adults are at a higher risk of suffering serious complications and needing hospitalization if they develop a COVID-19 infection,” Evan Anderson, MD, the principal investigator of the vaccine study at Emory and an associate professor of medicine and pediatrics at Emory University School of Medicine, said in the news release. “Since many older adults don’t develop as strong an immune response to vaccines, it’s critically important for us to evaluate this vaccine candidate in older adults as well.”

A coronavirus vaccine would work by forcing a person’s immune system to make antibodies against the disease, usually with a dead or weakened form of the germs.

Johnson & Johnson is also working to develop a coronavirus vaccine. The company said it hoped to start human clinical trials by September.

WebMD Health News Brief Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD on April 21, 2020

Sources

Johns Hopkins University, “COVID-19 Dashboard.”

Emory University, “Emory enrolling older adults in COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial.”

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