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KPBS Midday Edition Segments

UCSD To Have COVID-19 Vaccine Trials As Part Of National Effort

 July 24, 2020 at 10:46 AM PDT

Speaker 1: 00:01 In today's address on the spread of COVID in California, governor Gavin Newsome says not enough focus has been placed on essential workers. He presented a graph showing that most essential workers like grocery employees, cashiers, restaurant workers, et cetera in California, are Latino, black and Asian. Speaker 2: 00:20 This essential workforce remains the bedrock, the backbone of those that are providing foundational fundamental services to the state of California. Speaker 1: 00:31 New, some introduced expanded programs provide quarantine space for essential workers and crop workers who get sick. And he's introducing a new handbook for employers that streamlines guidance on how to provide a safe workplace for employees. Meanwhile, San Diego ins are getting a chance to join the fight against COVID-19. The first large scale COVID vaccine trial in the U S is looking for San Diego ones who want to participate 87 test sites across the U S hope to sign up 30,000 people to test the vaccine developed by the Moderna biotech company of the seven test sites in California, three are in San Diego County. Those locations are UC San Diego in the Hoya and three wake research in San Diego and East study site in Lamesa joining me with more on the modern a COVID vaccine trial is San Diego union Tribune, biotech reporter Jonathan Wilson, and Jonathan, welcome to the program. Thanks for having me, Maureen, what human trials has this vaccine already been through and what were the results? Speaker 2: 01:36 Dariana was actually the first company, first group of researchers to begin COVID-19 trials in humans. They started right around March 16, and that was a trial of about roughly 45 healthy adults. Mainly looking to see if the vaccine was safe. Those results just got published last Tuesday, July 14th, the new England journal of medicine. And what they found was that of the three doses, the low, mid to high doses of the vaccine, they tested that generally mild side effects you'd expect with any vaccine. And what was interesting and a bit encouraging was they found that everyone who was vaccinated produced antibodies. So these are immune proteins that can stick to the surface of a virus and potentially prevent it from infecting yourselves. And so based on those early smaller trial results, they're now moving forward with this large upcoming vaccine trial. Speaker 1: 02:29 Now, not only is this a vaccine for COVID a brand new disease, but it's also a brand new kind of vaccine. Tell us about it. Speaker 2: 02:37 Yeah. So this is one of a couple approaches. Researchers have basically been testing every vaccine approach. You can imagine, including ones that we've been using for decades, as well as what modern is doing, which is an M M RNA or messenger RNA vaccine. So this is a vaccine that has molecular instructions for the body to make pieces of the surface of the coronavirus, not the whole virus, but these spike proteins that the Corona virus has. And so the idea is that by providing this messenger RNA, you're teaching that person to make and then respond from their immune cells to the, that spike protein that would allow for those antibodies to then block infection, as well as for other types of immune cells to clear infected cells too. Speaker 1: 03:30 How many people do researchers hope will sign up to test the vaccine in San Diego? Speaker 2: 03:35 So collectively it could be upwards of 1000. And when you think about the fact that this is a 30,000 person trial, San Diego could end up being a pretty sizable chunk of that data set that gets used to decide whether the vaccine works. UCS D is hoping for about 500 people. And then East study site, and three week research are looking for about 350 to 500 a piece. Speaker 1: 04:01 And what kind of participants are researchers looking for? Speaker 2: 04:05 In short, they're looking for folks who have not already been infected with the Corona virus, but based on where they live or where they work, who might be going forward. Uh, they're also looking for people who are in high risk groups for COVID-19 and finding the right people for these types of trials is tricky because you don't want people who have already been infected because the immune response that you see from them might be what they had from that past infection. Doesn't tell you anything about whether the vaccine is working, but then if you look for people who would never be exposed, because they're so isolated or so hold up at home, for example, then you can't, you also can't tell if the vaccine would have protected them. So you're looking for this sort of in between spot of people who haven't been infected yet, haven't been exposed yet, but just based on their day to day, life might be so people who work in healthcare, people who work in grocery stores and public transportation would be good examples as well as folks who have preexisting conditions, whether that's high blood pressure or diabetes, for example. Speaker 1: 05:10 Now, if the trial is successful, what's the earliest that this vaccine would be available, Speaker 2: 05:16 But Dharna is one of a fairly small group of companies. That's part of the United States government's operation work speed. And that's a government bid to have potentially 300 million doses of six of a successful COVID-19 vaccine available by around January of 2021. So Moderna's president has, has said that they think they could potentially do that. You know, other people I've spoken to in, in the world of research and science have said, what's most likely by the end of the year, we would have a good indication of whether the vaccine works and then actually mass producing it, getting it to the people who need it quickly, could potentially take a bit longer than that. Speaker 1: 05:59 Jonathan, where can people find information on how to sign up for this trial? Speaker 2: 06:02 So the quickest way to do that would be to go to Corona virus prevention, network.org, Corona virus prevention, network.org, which is a site that was launched by the national institutes of health. And that will direct you to ways to find out about any number of COVID-19 prevention trials that are happening in your community. Speaker 1: 06:25 Speaking with San Diego union Tribune, biotech reporter, Jonathan Wilson, and Jonathan. Thanks so much. Speaker 2: 06:31 It was a pleasure. Thank you.

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The trial is slated to begin July 27 at UCSD Health, UCSD's Altman Clinical and Translational Research Institute and various other locations throughout the country.
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