Moderna an American biotech company’s experimental mRNA COVID 19 vaccine showed that it was safe and produced antibodies in all the 45 participants in its phase 1 trial. The early results showed that the vaccine triggered an immune response with some mild side effects including chills, muscle pain, and fatigue. These results were published on Tuesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.
So, what is a vaccine? A vaccine copies the virus in order to give a preview of the disease to the immune system. Vaccine basically prepares the immune system of a person by producing antibodies that attack the real virus if it shows up.
Traditional vaccines are either made from specific viral proteins called antigens or are weakened versions of the virus, which then spark an immune response. But now in the case of the COVID 19 vaccine, scientists are developing a different type of vaccine called the mRNA vaccine.
The mRNA vaccines make the body produce the viral proteins itself. What an mRNA vaccine does is it provides an artificial copy of mRNA-encoding individual proteins from the virus to the body, which then the body uses for the production of viral proteins itself. This presence of the protein initiates the immune system to fight the virus.
What are the phases of vaccine trails? In phase 1 trial the vaccine is given to a very small number of people and the primary focus is to make sure that the vaccine is safe and produces an immune response. In phase 2 trials the vaccine is given to those with the right characteristics of physical health and age and for whom the vaccine is intended. In Phase 3 trials the vaccine is given to thousands and is again tested for safety and usefulness.
During the phase 1 trial, the scientists in Moderna administered the vaccine in three doses to three groups each of fifteen individuals. The men and women who were part of phase 1 trials were aged between 28 and 41. Recently, Moderna has completed the enrolment for phase 2 trials and is expected to begin its phase 3 trial later this month.
A senior investigator at Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute, Dr. Lisa Jackson who was part of the phase 1 study said that the immune responses are looking promising but it is still to be known whether it will actually protect against the virus. According to her, it will only be known until phase 3 trials in which the usefulness of the vaccine is tested.
Moderna is expected to be the first company in the United States to begin phase 3 trials of the COVID 19 vaccine candidate mRNA-1237 on the 27th of July. According to Dr. Lisa, the information provided by the study could be used to identify the doses that can be given in phase 2 and phase 3 trials. and that according to her would be a very important decision to make.
In a press release on Tuesday, Moderna officials said that if all goes well the company Is on track to produce and deliver 500 million to 1 billion doses per year starting from 2021. All people can do now is hope and pray that Moderna or any other company is successful in creating an effective COVID 19 vaccine.