The vaccine was fast-tracked to human trials, but it will still be some time before it’s ready for public use.

A healthy volunteer in Seattle is the first person in the U.S. to receive a dose of an experimental coronavirus vaccine as part of a new clinical trial, government health officials announced (March 16).

1st person in US gets experimental coronavirus vaccine

Over the next six weeks, researchers plan to enroll 45 participants in the trial, which will test the safety of the vaccine as well as its ability to induce an immune response in the volunteers. The trial will take place at Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute (KPWHRI) in Seattle.

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) allowed the new vaccine to be fast-tracked into clinical trials without thorough testing in animal models, which usually stands as a strict prerequisite to human testing. While making the jump to human trials could bring the vaccine to market faster, this is only step one. 

New drugs must pass through three iterative phases of clinical trials before being deemed safe and effective for widespread use. Assuming the initial tests go well, it may be 12 to 18 months before any vaccine is ready for public use, NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci told the House Oversight and Reform Committee on March 12. 

“Finding a safe and effective vaccine to prevent infection with SARS-CoV-2 is an urgent public health priority,” Fauci said in a NIAID statement, published March 16. “This Phase 1 study, launched in record speed, is an important first step toward achieving that goal.”

The new vaccine is a collaboration between NIAID scientists and the biotechnology company Moderna Inc., based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.