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More volunteers get COVID-19 vaccine in US study

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(27 Jul 2020) The biggest test yet of an experimental COVID-19 vaccine got underway Monday with the first of some 30,000 Americans rolling up their sleeves to receive shots created by the U.S. government as part of the all-out global race to stop the outbreak.
Final-stage testing of the vaccine, developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc., began with volunteers at numerous sites around the U.S. given either a real dose or a dummy without being told which.
"I'm doing it because again, I'm a retired healthcare worker and I understand the challenges COVID-19 has caused our community, state and the whole country," said study participant Karen Juser, a retired nurse.
Juser received an injection in Binghamton, New York.
It will be months before results trickle in, and there is no guarantee the vaccine will ultimately work against the scourge that has killed about 650,000 people around the world, including almost 150,000 in the U.S.
As if to underline how high the stakes are, there were more setbacks in efforts to contain the coronavirus.
In Washington, the Trump administration disclosed that national security adviser Robert O'Brien has the virus — the highest-ranking U.S. official to test positive so far. The White House said he has mild symptoms and "has been self-isolating and working from a secure location off site."
Scientists set speed records getting a made-from-scratch vaccine into such massive testing just months after the coronavirus emerged. But they stressed that the public shouldn't fear that anyone is cutting corners.
"This is a significant milestone," NIH Director Francis Collins said after the very first test injection was given, at 6:45 a.m. in Savannah, Georgia.  Iit comes at a remarkably rapid pace compared to the usual pace for vaccine preparation. It is possible to do this because of an all hands on deck effort that has been essentially 24/7 since last January when the SARS – COV2 virus called me to virus first emerged as a worldwide threat."
After volunteers get two doses a month apart, scientists will closely track which group experiences more infections as they go about their daily routines, especially in areas where the virus is spreading unchecked.
The answer probably won't come until November or December, cautioned Dr. Anthony Fauci, NIH's infectious-diseases chief.
Among many questions the study may answer: How much protection does just one dose offer compared with the two scientists think are needed? If it works, will it protect against severe disease or block infection entirely?
Don't expect a vaccine as strong as the measles vaccine, which prevents about 97% of measles infections, Fauci said, adding he would be happy with a COVID-19 vaccine that's 60% effective.
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 U.S. requires its own tests of any vaccine that might be used in the country.  
Every month through the fall, the government-funded COVID-19 Prevention Network will roll out a new study of a leading candidate, each with 30,000 volunteers.
The final U.S. study of the Oxford shot is set to begin in August, followed by a candidate from Johnson & Johnson in September and one from Novavax in October. Pfizer Inc. plans its own 30,000-person study this summer.
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