The world's biggest Covid-19 vaccine study got underway Monday with the first of 30,000 planned volunteers helping to test shots created by the US government -- one of several candidates in the final stretch of the global vaccine race. There's still no guarantee that the experimental vaccine, developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc., will really protect.
The needed proof: Volunteers won't know if they're getting the real shot or a dummy version. After two doses, scientists will closely track which group experiences more infections as they go about their daily routines, especially in areas where the virus still is spreading unchecked. "Unfortunately for the United States of America, we have plenty of infections right now" to get that answer, NIH's Dr Anthony Fauci recently told The Associated Press.
Moderna said the vaccination was done in Savannah, Georgia, the first site to get underway among more than seven dozen trial sites scattered around the country. In Binghamton, New York, nurse Melissa Harting said she volunteered as a way "to do my part to help out." "I'm excited," Harting said before she received a study injection Monday morning. Especially with family members in front-line jobs that could expose them to the virus, "doing our part to eradicate it is very important to me."
Several other vaccines made by China and by Britain's Oxford University began smaller final-stage tests in Brazil and other hard-hit countries earlier this month.
But the US requires its own tests of any vaccine that might be used in the country and has set a high bar: Every month through fall, the government-funded Covid-19 Prevention Network will roll out a new study of a leading candidate -- each one with 30,000 newly recruited volunteers.
The massive studies aren't just to test if the shots work - they're needed to check each potential vaccine's safety. And following the same study rules will let scientists eventually compare all the shots.
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