‘It’s very safe’: Doctor volunteers for Moderna vaccine trial

Coronavirus

LA JOLLA, Calif. -– The world may see two coronavirus vaccines before the end of the year. Dr. Carl Ware with the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute may have already received a dose.

“This is a double-blind clinical study, so I don’t know if I got the real thing or I got the placebo,” Ware said Monday.

He is director of the Infectious and Inflammatory Disease Center and a professor of immunology at Sanford Burnham Prebys. He said volunteering to be in clinical trials for Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine was an easy decision.

“Excited to be able to participate in something that is so important to people in the world. This is my science. I understand this science. So, I felt like this was a great time and great opportunity,” he said.

He got the first dose in the trial eight weeks ago. Thirty days later, he got a booster. He said he didn’t experience symptoms after either shot. At his last appointment, researchers drew blood to measure his immune response. He said he won’t know the results until the rest of us do.

Moderna said Monday that its vaccine appeared to be 94.5% effective in early data. Pfizer revealed last week that its vaccine appeared to be 90% effective. Both vaccines use new genetic technology called Messenger RNA or mRNA – which does not use the live virus.

“It’s very harmless compared to other types of vaccines. It codes a very small part of the virus genetic material, so it only produces the protein that the virus uses to get into a cell. That’s all,” Ware said. “It’s very safe and doesn’t cause a viral infection. But it exposes that protein, that antigen, to your immune system so your immune system can recognize it to be foreign and mount an immune response that can protect you.”

Ware said the beauty of the technology is that it’s relatively easy to make. While Pfizer’s distribution will require the vaccine to be kept at 94 degrees below zero, Moderna’s needs normal refrigeration and will keep in a freezer for up to six months.

“Its distribution, as we’ve heard with the Moderna vaccine, will be feasible,” Ware said. “I think that’s a really important part of how the vaccine can slow the spread of a virus and eventually get rid of a pandemic.”

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