This week, the first patients in a clinical trial for a potential COVID-19 vaccine were given shots, marking a key step in the global race to find a cure. Kaiser Permanente Washington Research Institute in Seattle developed a COVID-19 vaccine in record time and started administering the shots on Monday.
The first person to receive a dose of the potential vaccine was 43-year-old Jennifer Haller, an operations manager at a small tech company, according to The Associated Press. "We all feel so helpless. This is an amazing opportunity for me to do something," Haller said, adding that her two teenagers "think it's cool" that she's taking part in the study.
Ultimately, 45 volunteers, ages 18 to 55, will get two doses the vaccine over a span of about 6 weeks, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH).
The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the NIH, is funding the trial. The vaccine is called mRNA-1273 and was developed by NIAID, and Moderna, Inc., a Cambridge, Massachusetts-based biotechnology company.
"Finding a safe and effective vaccine to prevent infection with SARS-CoV-2 is an urgent public health priority," NIAID Director Anthony Fauci said. "This Phase 1 study, launched in record speed, is an important first step toward achieving that goal."
Other potential COVID-19 vaccines are being developed around the world, including at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. On Monday's "CBS Evening News," David Martin spoke to doctors there to learn more about the potential cures.
Dr. Kayvon Modjarrad, a director at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, is testing a potential vaccine that would block the virus from attaching to a person's lung. "If it can't get into your lung cells, it can't cause the disease," Modjarrad said.
Still, the race for the coronavirus vaccine could take 12 to 18 months to run, Martin reports. So, Lieutenant Colonel Mara Kreishman-Deitrick is working on a drug that people who already have the disease can take.
"What we're aiming to develop here is an antiviral treatment that will kill the virus and actually cure them of the disease so they don't further spread it to the rest of the community," she told Martin.
Kreishman-Deitrick says an existing drug used against Ebola may work against the novel coronavirus as well. "It's ready for a clinical trial in humans and once those clinical trials show that it's affected then it will be available for wider use in humans," she said. It hasn't yet been proved effective but could be used as an emergency treatment.
COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, has killed at more than 90 people in the United States, according to Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. Globally, the death toll is over 7,500, with the most aggressive outbreaks still spreading in Europe and Iran.
Dr. Caitlin Rivers, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, said Tuesday in a live webcast about the coronavirus pandemic that "in some respects we are just getting started in the United States."