TUCSON, Ariz. — The national institutes of health is overseeing the development of a vaccine against COVID-19.
KGUN 9's Pat Parris is a participant in that vaccine trial in Tucson.
"Safety is paramount to all of these studies, Phase 1, Phase 2 and Phase 3 clinical trials," said Dr. Elizabeth Connick, the head of Infectious Diseases in the University of Arizona's Department of Medicine.
Dr. Connick said she believes early results from those trials show the Moderna vaccine is safe. Although we don't yet know how effective it is.
We do know there is no live coronavirus in this vaccine.
"A few folks who've come in want to know if they're going to get COVID from this," said Dr. Jack McGettigan, who is running Moderna's phase 3 trial in Tucson. "There's no way they can get COVID."
McGettigan also owns Quality of Life Research and Medical Center where the trial is taking place.
He said researchers simply replicated the spike protein of COVID-19, but didn't actually use the virus.
"They were able to remove one of those spikes and replicate it genetically," Dr. McGettigan said. "That's what's being used to develop the vaccine."
Here's how it works, according to Dr. Connick:
"Your own cells produce the spike protein and then you develop immunity to that antigen, that the immune system is seeing, and hopefully will protect you in case you get exposed to the virus," said Dr. Connick.
She said a new development makes an effective vaccine even more important.
"Now we have a few reports of people who have gotten COVID-19 for a second time. I think a vaccine may give us better immunity than natural infection in many cases," Dr. Connick said. "Increasingly, I think the vaccine is the only hope for really achieving herd immunity."
Herd immunity is when a high percentage of the community is immune to a disease through vaccination or prior illness.
The hope is to have a vaccine approved by the end of this year.