Vaccine trials bring hope, while precautions still urged

Posted at 11:21 PM, Nov 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-16 23:21:48-05

TAMPA, Fla. — While the Coronavirus continues to spread, tens of thousands of people across the country have signed up to test potential vaccines.

That includes Sahel Chen in Texas.

“I felt helpless and I thought it was something that I could do,” Chen said.

She’s enthusiastic about vaccines after she said she lost her hearing as a child when she wasn’t vaccinated for measles. During this pandemic, she said she signed up to take part in Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine trial.

“I wanted to be able to do what I could to see if we can get a vaccine out to everybody,” she said.

Monday, the company announced its mRNA candidate had early clinical trial data showing the efficacy of 94.5%.

“Woohoo, I was really excited,” said Dawn Yost, another participant on the east coast.

For the teacher, taking part in the trial provided a sense of security.

“I really did it to participate in the process so I could learn more about how vaccines are created and tested,” Yost said.

Moderna said its interim analysis of the phase 3 data showed 90 cases of COVID-19 were seen in the placebo group, versus 5 cases in the mRNA group. Eleven severe cases occurred in the placebo group, and none in the vaccinated group.

While analysis continues, Moderna said it plans to submit for an Emergency Use Authorization to the FDA in the coming weeks. It plans to have around 20 million doses ready to ship in the United States by the end of the year, and said it’s on track to manufacture at least half a billion doses globally in 2021.

It comes a week after Pfizer announced promising results in its own clinical trial of an mRNA vaccine for COVID-19.

“I think realistically both of our platforms validate each other in a very important way because both use mRNA technology. And so you've got two independent very large trials with independent companies giving you very similar results,” said Dr. Tal Zaks, the chief medical officer of Moderna.

However, the news doesn’t replace the need for precautions experts warned.

“We can see the end is coming but we can’t really get complacent until the end is really here,” said Thomas Unnasch, Ph.D., a distinguished university professor at the University of South Florida. He specializes in emerging infectious diseases.

He said cases are on the rise. He said over the last two weeks, Florida and Tampa Bay area data shows the number of cases have a doubling rate on average about once a month.

“It’s a difficult position to be in so we really need to do what we can to try and mitigate the amount of spread of the virus,” he said.

Monday, the Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County provided an update to the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners.

During the meeting, Dr. Douglas Holt, the local department’s director, reminded residents to wear face covers, social distance, wash hands, use hand sanitizer, don’t touch your face, limit gathering to no more than 10 people and recommended college students be tested for COVID-19 before returning home.

The county reported the rolling 14-day daily positive rate was 8.28 percent on Nov. 8th compared to 6.08 percent on Oct. 18th. The highest number of cases continued to be in the 20-29 age group, then the 30-39 and 40-49 age groups.