Home Health News Bay Area Kaiser sites to join one of first global coronavirus vaccine trials – San Francisco Chronicle

Bay Area Kaiser sites to join one of first global coronavirus vaccine trials – San Francisco Chronicle

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Kaiser Permanente in California and Oregon, including sites in Santa Clara and Sacramento counties, has joined a global trial of one of the first coronavirus vaccines to begin large-scale testing in humans, the health care provider announced Wednesday.

The phase 3 trial, the last step before federal approval, is the first major study to seek Bay Area volunteers in the dramatic, international race for a coronavirus vaccine. Kaiser gave the vaccine to its first Northern California volunteers on Monday.

About 1,400 participants at four Kaiser locations will be given the vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc. and the German technology company BioNTech, which are sponsoring the trial. The developers plan to enroll 30,000 people at more than 120 sites around the world.

The vaccine uses synthetic genetic material, called messenger RNA or mRNA, to prime the body’s immune system to develop cells and antibodies to attack the virus. It’s a new approach to immunization that has not yet been used in approved vaccines.

“In some ways (the trial) very much looks like the type of vaccine trials we do all the time. What really is not typical is the speed at which all of this has taken place,” said Dr. Nicola Klein, director of the Kaiser Permanente Vaccine Study Center and lead investigator for the trial in Northern California. “Typically we’ll be involved with the manufacturers for years.”

The Kaiser arm of the study will be run out of the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland, the Department of Research & Evaluation in Pasadena and the Center for Health Research in Portland, Ore.

Participants must be adults 18 to 85 who are Kaiser members. They cannot be pregnant or planning to become pregnant. Kaiser is especially looking for volunteers who are more likely to develop COVID-19, including people who are older, have underlying health issues, or work in jobs where they face greater risk of exposure to the virus.

The trial is a double-blind, placebo-controlled study, which means half of the participants will be given the vaccine and half a placebo. Neither participants nor researchers will know who got the vaccine.

The global trial was launched at the end of July, around the same time as another major trial using a vaccine developed by Moderna. The Moderna vaccine also uses mRNA technology.

Both Pfizer and Moderna have won major funding from the U.S. Health and Human Services Agency as part of President Trump’s Operation Warp Speed to quickly push out a safe and effective vaccine. Pfizer was offered up to $1.95 billion for manufacturing and distribution of around 100 million doses of its vaccine. Moderna has been awarded about $955 million.

Three other vaccines, made by Johnson & Johnson, Merck and a team from Oxford University and AstraZeneca, also are on the U.S. short list of most viable vaccine candidates and have received major funding.

Erin Allday is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: eallday@sfchronicle.com

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