A vaccine for coronavirus is not expected to be available for another year or year and a half. But clinical testing is expected to begin in Washington state next week, according to three federal lawmakers from Maryland.
On Friday, U.S. Sens. Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin and U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin visited the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases’ Vaccine Research Center at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda.
After they spoke with NIH researchers — including NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci and NIH Principal Deputy Director Dr. Lawrence Tabak — to discuss vaccine development, the elected officials spoke to reporters at a Metro station next to the campus.
Van Hollen said phase 1 of clinical testing for a vaccine would begin next week using 40 healthy volunteers in Washington state. After the testing is finished in two or three months, researchers will move the study to a second phase, which includes testing people who are more at risk and older volunteers.
After clinical testing is finished, efficacy testing will be completed before it can be made available to the public.
Moderna Therapeutics, a biotechnology company, developed a vaccine that will be used in a clinical trial in Seattle starting by the end of April, according to Live Science, a trade publication. The company sent the vaccine to NIAID on Feb. 24 and is recruiting volunteers.
Other private companies across the country are also working on vaccines and treatments, including Novavax in Gaithersburg. Novavax said in a press release that it expects to start doing human testing by the end of the spring.
The goal of having an available and affordable vaccine is “quick by historical standards,” Van Hollen said.
Cardin said NIH researchers were well prepared to handle a fast response for developing a vaccine and are “the best in the world.” The vaccine will be one of the fastest developed vaccines, he said, and is supported by the researched data on similar types of viruses.
Cardin noted the $8.3 billion emergency spending package that will be used to respond to the coronavirus outbreak. The House and the Senate passed the bill and President Donald Trump signed it on Friday.
The funds will go to vaccine research and development, and aid for state and local governments combatting the virus.
Raskin said researchers are working “every single day as quickly as they can” and federal funding to support the research is vital.
About a million testing kits are being delivered to private labs this week to help expand the availability for residents. Public labs have a capacity of around 75,000 tests.
Government leaders are making sure people without insurance can get the vaccine, Cardin said.
Three Montgomery County residents — a husband and wife in their 70s and a woman in her 50s — were the first in Maryland to test positive for coronavirus. A fourth Montgomery County resident — a man in his 60s — and a woman from Harford County also have tested positive, giving Maryland five cases as of Monday morning.
Briana Adhikusuma can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org