Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer began testing multiple versions of an experimental coronavirus vaccine in healthy young people in the United States this week, a first step toward establishing the safety, dosage and most promising candidate to take into larger trials that will test effectiveness. If all goes well, the company could begin making its vaccine more broadly available this fall.
In an unusual trial design that signals the pressing need to find a vaccine against covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, Pfizer is initially testing four versions of the vaccine, side by side. Typically, companies spend years on animal experiments and select a single promising candidate to put into human testing, but the drugmaker decided to create a flexible trial that could rapidly sift out the best option.
“The pandemic came upon us, fast and furious, and we didn’t have a lot of time to do years of research,” said Kathrin Jansen, head of vaccine research and development at Pfizer. “Because of the urgency and the crisis, we said, ‘What can we do to shorten the development time for a vaccine?’ ”
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By Carolyn Y. Johnson