SEE RELATED STORY: Doctor says COVID-19 vaccine expected 3rd quarter of 2021
“The urgency of the matter cannot be understated,” said Dr. Hana El Sahly, an associate professor at Baylor College of Medicine.
As researchers urgently work to develop a vaccine, previous research on the SARS and MERS vaccine was put to great use.
“I do think it shaved off some of the time. How much it shaved off, I can’t estimate. But as soon as this hit, everyone hit the books on what happened with SARS and MERS and tried to apply some of those lessons here,” said Dr. El Sahly.
Then the work began, and a number of vaccine candidates were created using a similar component.
“The virus has an outside protein called a spike protein, and all the vaccine candidates are based around the spike protein in one form or another. Either the whole spike protein or parts of it that induce neutralizing antibodies and the idea is to get the best immune response as possible,” said Dr. Alan Barrett, the director of vaccine sciences at UTMB.
Now some vaccines have moved along in their testing phase, and are in phase three, where larger clinical trials are underway. Both the Baylor College of Medicine and UTMB are involved in clinical trials.
Dr. El Sahly said half the participants in the Moderna trial will take the vaccine and the other half will take a placebo.
“Every volunteer will be followed for up to two years per protocol, but the data will be analyzed at specific intervals in the clinical trial to have an earlier reading regarding what the vaccine safety and efficacy looks like,” she said.
So they could see information from the data before the two-year trial is complete.
“We expect some people will end up with the disease, and they’ll compare whether or not the placebo group has more disease than those getting the vaccine, and if they do get COVID how sick do they get,” said Dr. Rick Rupp, a doctor with the UTMB clinical trial program.
The goal is to get several different vaccines.
“Everything we’re doing at the moment is what we normally do to develop a vaccine. It’s just we’re squashing everything together at this warp speed, but we’re not cutting corners. It’s just everything is being put together to do it at the speed we can to get the data,” said Barrett.
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