On Monday morning, a woman in Rome became the first Italian to be injected with an experimental COVID-19 vaccine in the first phase of human trials.
The Lazzaro Spallanzani institute in Rome is inoculating 90 volunteers with their vaccine and monitor their reactions for the first six months. If these preliminary trials prove to work, researchers say they can potentially move to phase two of human trials in the next four or five months.
Phase two will be conducted in countries harder hit by the pandemic, like Mexico or Brazil, the health director of the Spallanzani hospital told Reuters.
“If we are able to be fast, we will have the first shots on the market next spring,” he added.
The phase one volunteers will receive the vaccine and be monitored at the hospital for a few hours before they are allowed to return home. There, they will be under constant observation for 12 weeks.
The vaccine was developed by ReiThera, a pharmaceutical company based in Rome. They named it GRAd-COV2.
After so much effort, dedication and work, we are ready to start the Phase 1 of the clinical trial!#covid19 #vaccine #biotech #research #development #science #scientist #biology #clinicaltrial #sperimentazione #italy #immunologyhttps://t.co/bLH5XnjNQA @ilmessaggeroit
— ReiThera Srl (@ReitheraS) August 11, 2020
This first phase of trials is to learn whether the vaccine produces COVID-19 antibodies in the volunteers and to see if there are any unprecedented side effects. Thousands of people applied to be test subjects for phase one, but only 90 were chosen.
Global Race for a Vaccine
Though Italy took this monumental step in their vaccine testing today, other nations around the globe are also racing to produce a vaccine.
Italy even joined three other European countries in signing a deal with AstraZeneca, a British pharmaceutical company that is already in phase three of human trials, to secure 300 million doses of the vaccine for $843.2 million once it is ready.
AstraZeneca is working with Oxford University in the UK to develop and test their vaccine. Similarly, Pfizer and BioNTech, two pharmaceutical companies, are partnering to begin phase three trials of their vaccine. And Johnson and Johnson, an American pharmaceutical company, has registered 60,000 volunteers to begin phase three human trials on their experimental vaccine in September.
A successful vaccine will teach people’s immune systems to create antibodies for the coronavirus without causing disease or harmful side effects.
Many experts think any number of vaccines entering phase three trials could be available on the mass market by the spring of 2021, though some believe there will be a viable vaccine as soon as this fall.