3 experimental COVID-19 vaccines set for critical testing phase this summer

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Credit: Dado Ruvic/Reuters

The federal government plans to fund and conduct the decisive studies of three experimental coronavirus vaccines starting this summer, according to a lead government vaccine researcher.

These phase 3 trials are expected to involve tens of thousands of subjects at dozens of sites around the U.S., John Mascola, director of the vaccine research center at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said. Meant to determine a vaccine’s safety and effectiveness, they would mark the final stage of testing.

Moderna Inc.’s vaccine is set to be first, starting in July, followed in August by one co-developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca PLC and in September by Johnson & Johnson’s, he said.

The timetable suggests researchers are making relatively rapid progress advancing their vaccines through earlier stages of testing—focused on whether they are safe and induce the desired immune response—to at least merit the planning.

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“We will want to use the investigative resources of the country as best we can to optimize us getting an answer as quickly as possible,” said [infectious-disease specialist] Larry Corey.

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Though each vaccine will be tested in a separate trial, the companies are coordinating certain aspects, such as using the same independent committee to monitor safety, according to Dr. Corey. This will allow researchers to better compare how the vaccines perform, and whether certain shots are better suited to certain subpopulations, he said.

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