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Coronavirus vaccine trial kicks off in downtown Seattle

A pharmacist gives Jennifer Haller the first shot in the first-stage safety study clinical trial of a potential vaccine for COVID-19 in March in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

The first patient in a Seattle clinical trial to find a coronavirus vaccine will receive an experimental dose on Monday, an anonymous government official told the Associated Press.

This comes as part of a vaccine trial at Kaiser Permanente Washington Research Institute in Seattle. The trial includes 45 healthy adult volunteers between the ages of 18 and 55.

“We all feel so helpless. This is an amazing opportunity for me to do something,” Jennifer Haller, 43, of Seattle said before getting vaccinated. Her two teenagers “think it’s cool” that she’s taking part in the study.

After the injection, she left the exam room with a big smile: “I’m feeling great.”

Three others were next in line for a test that will ultimately give 45 volunteers two doses, a month apart.

Neal Browning, 46, of Bothell, Washington, is a Microsoft network engineer who says his young daughters are proud he volunteered.

“Every parent wants their children to look up to them,” he said. But he’s told them not to brag to their friends. “It’s other people, too. It’s not just Dad out there.”

The vaccine study will not infect patients with the virus itself. Rather, it will be “similar to investigational mRNA vaccines developed for the Zika virus and human metapneumovirus that have been tested in humans.”

Initially, the goal is to determine whether the vaccine comes with any problematic side effects, eventually setting the stage for larger, more expansive testing.

Kaiser is one of at least nine other companies working to develop a coronavirus vaccine, including Gilead Sciences, Inovio Pharmaceuticals, and Johnson & Johnson among others.

The expectation is that the vaccine will take roughly 18 months to fully validate in a lab setting.

Kaiser’s trial will take place over 11 in-person visits, and four phone visits. Patients will receive two doses of the vaccine administered 28 days apart. The in-person visits take place at Kaiser Washington’s downtown Seattle research clinic near I-5.

President Donald Trump has been pushing for swift action on a vaccination saying in recent days that the work is “moving along very quickly” and he hopes to see a vaccine “relatively soon.”

Today, there are no proven treatments. In China, scientists have been testing a combination of HIV drugs against the new coronavirus, as well as an experimental drug named remdesivir that was in development to fight Ebola. In the U.S., the University of Nebraska Medical Center also began testing remdesivir in some Americans who were found to have COVID-19 after being evacuated from a cruise ship in Japan.

Kaiser Permanente screened dozens of people, looking for those who have no chronic health problems and are not currently sick. Researchers are not checking whether would-be volunteers already had a mild case of COVID-19 before deciding if they are eligible.

“We’re team coronavirus now,” Kaiser Permanente study leader Dr. Lisa Jackson said on the eve of the experiment. “Everyone wants to do what they can in this emergency.”

If some did, scientists will be able to tell by the number of antibodies in their pre-vaccination blood test and account for that, Jackson said. Participants will be paid $100 for each clinic visit in the study.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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