Two hospitals in Boston are beginning human trials for vaccines against coronavirus.
An experimental COVID-19 vaccine developed at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is undergoing human testing. Additionally, Brigham and Women's Hospital will lead the New England portion of a massive trial to test the effectiveness and safety of a vaccine developed by Moderna, based in neighboring Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Dr. Dan Barouch, a virologist at Beth Israel, is a part of the team that developed one of the experimental vaccines with Johnson and Johnson.
"It's a hugely important step," Barouch said Monday.
Testing is now starting at labs in the U.S. and got underway in Belgium last week.
"We also have the opportunity to look at immune responses to see whether the vaccine is raising the immune responses that we're hoping it will," Barouch said.
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Brigham and Women's said Monday it would serve as the clinical research site for New England as the study of Moderna's vaccine gets underway this week.
Dr. Lindsey Baden, an infectious diseases specialist at that hospital, will serve as co-principal investigator for the study.
“This is the first phase 3 trial that will test the effectiveness of a vaccine against COVID-19, and we’ve been working diligently across industry, academia and government to pave a path for launching this trial rapidly and safely,” said Baden.
"Our goal has been to not only launch this important trial, but also to develop a rapid, high-quality process for vaccine trials that are to come," he added.
The study seeks to determine the effectiveness of the vaccine in preventing COVID-19 as well as the vaccine’s safety. According to Brigham and Women's, participants will get either two injections of the vaccine or a placebo, with the second shot coming 28 days after the first. Participants will be tracked for two years following the injections.
According to the hospital, the study targets “adults whose locations or circumstances put them at appreciable risk of exposure to COVID-19.”
Several other vaccines made by China and by Britain's Oxford University began smaller final-stage tests in Brazil and other hard-hit countries earlier this month.
But the U.S. requires its own tests of any vaccine that might be used in the country and has set a high bar: Every month through fall, the government-funded COVID-19 Prevention Network will roll out a new study of a leading candidate — each one with 30,000 newly recruited volunteers.
The massive studies aren't just to test if the shots work — they're needed to check each potential vaccine's safety. And following the same study rules will let scientists eventually compare all the shots.