White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said Monday he is “not particularly concerned” about the safety risk of a potential coronavirus vaccine by Moderna, despite the fact that it uses new technology to fight the virus.
The vaccine, which entered a large phase three human trial Monday, uses Messenger ribonucleuc acid, or mRNA molecules to provoke an immune response to fight the virus. Scientists hope mRNA, which relays genetic instructions from DNA, can be used to train the immune system to recognize and destroy Covid-19. While early studies show promise, mRNA technology has never been used to make a successful vaccine before.
“It’s a novel technology. We are certainly aware of the fact that that there’s not as much experience with this type of platform as there are with other standards,” Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told reporters on a conference call alongside National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins. “I’m not particularly concerned. But I don’t want a lack of severe concern get in the way that we are keeping an open mind to look for any possible deleterious effects as we get into and through the phase three trial.”
Scientists could know whether a potential coronavirus vaccine by Moderna works as early as October, but will likely have the full results by November, Fauci said.
Moderna, which is working in collaboration with the NIH, announced earlier in the day that it began its late-stage trial for its vaccine. The trial will enroll at least 30,000 participants across 87 locations, according to ClinicalTrials.gov. Participants in the experimental arm will receive a 100 microgram dose of the potential vaccine on the first day and another 29 days later. Some patients will also receive a placebo.
Moderna’s experimental vaccine contains genetic material called messenger RNA, or mRNA. If approved the Food and Drug Administration, it would be the first of its kind.
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