The first experimental COVID-19 vaccine in the U.S. will begin a major study next month, in order to prove whether it can actually prevent the virus.
Moderna Inc. said on Thursday that the vaccine it is developing with the National Institutes of Health will be tested in about 30,000 people in the U.S.
Some of those individuals will receive the real shot, while others will get a dummy shot, as scientists track which group ends up with the most infections.
Across the world, about a dozen potential COVID-19 vaccines are still in the early stages of testing.
The NIH expects to help several other shots move into testing studies this summer, including one made by Oxford University.
If all goes well, “there will be potential to get answers” on which vaccines work by the end of the year, says Dr. John Mascola, who directs NIH’s vaccine research center.
— Moderna (@moderna_tx) June 11, 2020
The vaccine that is made by the NIH and Moderna contains no actual virus.
Instead, those shots actually have the genetic code for the protein that coats the surface of the virus.
The body’s cells then use that code to make some harmless spike protein to which the immune system reacts, to prepare for the possibility of the real virus.
Moderna Inc. has not yet published results of how their shots fared in smaller, earlier-stage studies.
Even without proof that any potential vaccine could work, companies and governments are stockpiling millions of doses, to be ready to vaccinate as soon as they have answers.
For example, a U.S. program called “Operation Warp Speed” aims to have 300 million doses on hand by January.