Promising results from Moderna’s first coronavirus vaccine trial in Seattle

SEATTLE — In the global race to find a vaccine for COVID-19, all eyes are on western Washington, where the first human trial is showing promising results.

“The really encouraging news we have is that the interim results of this phase 1 study suggest that there are no serious safety concerns associated with getting a vaccine, and it also showed the people who received it seem to produce an immune response of antibodies that can neutralize the virus,” said Dr. John Dunn with Kaiser Permanente in Seattle.

The vaccine trial, developed by biotech company Moderna, is funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and it is being run at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle.

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The trial involves 45 healthy adults. The vaccine does not contain the live virus, but it includes a messenger RNA of the disease.

Dunn said it is important to note phase 1 tests vaccine safety, not effectiveness. Every person in this trial received two shots 28 days apart. They were given different dosages. Dunn said the study found the most common side effects were fatigue, headache, chills, and pain at the injection site. But nothing that suggested a serious adverse reaction.

KIRO 7 caught up with Neal Browning, of Bothell, who was one of the first people to get the experimental vaccine back in March.

“I feel great. I had just one slight symptom, which is, to be honest, expected after receiving a vaccination. Each morning, the arm where I received my vaccination, the arm at the injection site was very slightly sore. I would say less sore than I usually get when I’m getting a flu shot,” Browning explained.

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KIRO 7 also checked in with Jennifer Haller, the first person to get the vaccine. She also said she was doing great.

“I’m very happy things are going exactly the way we’d like to see them to go. The thing I want to emphasize is it’s still a long ways off before we have something that’s ready to go to the general public,” Dunn said.

Dunn said the number of antibodies developed differed from person to person.

Although the vaccine may have given Browning some immunity to the virus, he's not taking any chances and continues to wear a mask and social distance.

“This doesn’t change things a bit for me. I’m every bit as vigilant as everyone else should be,” Browning said.

But he's glad he can play a role in these uncertain times.

“To have the amount of pain and suffering and to have the death tolls all around the world is really hard. And this gives us a ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ aspect, where we hope we can see something positive happening out of this,” Browning added.

Phase 3, the final phase of testing, which tests whether the vaccine is effective and prevents the coronavirus, is set to start at the end of July. Moderna aims to enroll 30,000 adults in the clinical trial.