Beijing: China has begun the first phase of a clinical trial for a COVID-19 vaccine developed by the country’s military scientists even as scientists race to find a cure for the deadly disease. The vaccine trial came after US announced last week that it had started the phase 1 clinical trial of the wold’s first coronavirus vaccine called mRNA-1273.
The new coronavirus, or SARS-CoV-2, first detected in Wuhan, China, has killed at least 14,396 so far across 171 countries and territories and infected 324,290 people as the deadly virus continues to spread across the world. According to a filing in China’s Clinical Trial Registry, dated March 17, the trial is expected to continue until the end of the year.
On Saturday, the Science and Technology Daily reported that the first batch of volunteers – aged between 18 and 60 and who are all Wuhan permanent residents – has been divided into three groups, each consisting of 36 members. The 108 participants, who will be quarantined for 14 days, will be given different dosages. They will be monitored by researchers for six months for any adverse reactions.
“Volunteers of the COVID-19 phase one trial have already started receiving the vaccine,” a staff member involved in the government-funded project was quoted as saying by AFP on Sunday.
Currently, there are no approved vaccines or medications for the new COVID-19 disease, which has prompted pharmaceutical companies and research labs around the world to accelerate the process.
An opinion piece published last week in China’s nationalistic Global Times stated that ‘the development of a vaccine is a battle that China cannot afford to lose’. However, the hunt for a safe and effective vaccine may take time – it may be noted that the US candidate vaccine developed by the National Institutes of Health and the Massachusetts-based biotechnology company Moderna Inc. may take another year to 18 months before becoming available for widespread use.
Meanwhile, Gilead Sciences’ remdesivir, an antiviral treatment, is already in the final stages of clinical trials in Asia. Doctors in China have reported the drug has proven effective in treating COVID-19 disease. However, only randomised trials will allow scientists to determine whether remdesivir is safe and effective. Remdesivir has been touted by many as a promising potential treatment for coronavirus.