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Pfizer reports encouraging, very early vaccine test results

The first of four experimental COVID-19 vaccines being tested by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech showed encouraging results in very early testing of 45 people, the companies said Wednesday.

Study volunteers given either a low or medium dose, in two shots about a month apart, had immune responses in the range expected to be protective, when compared to some COVID-19 survivors, according to the preliminary results.

Side effects were typical for vaccines, mostly pain at the injection site and fever.

The report has been submitted for publication in a scientific journal but not yet reviewed. With its other potential candidates still in the earliest stage of testing, Pfizer aims to open a large-scale study this summer but can’t yet say which shot is best to include.

But researchers didn’t administer a second shot of the highest dose initially tested, sticking with the low and medium doses. The higher-dose shot caused more injection reactions without apparent added benefit.

About 15 different COVID-19 vaccine candidates are in human testing worldwide, with several poised to begin huge, last-stage studies to prove if they really work.

Different companies are pursuing different types of vaccines, boosting the odds that at least one approach might work—although there’s no guarantee. The Pfizer and BioNTech candidates use a piece of the coronavirus genetic code to prime the body to recognize and attack the virus.

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US biotech firm Inovio reports encouraging virus vaccine results

The US biotech firm Inovio reported preliminary but encouraging results Tuesday from tests of an experimental coronavirus vaccine.

Administered to 40 volunteers, it triggered an immune system response in 94 percent of those who completed the so-called phase one clinical trial, meaning they received two injections, four weeks apart.

Inovio’s vaccine, called INO-4800, is designed to inject DNA into a person so as to set off a specific immune system response against the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

The medication is injected under the skin with a needle, then activated with a device that resembles a toothbrush, which delivers an electrical impulse for a fraction of a second, allowing the DNA to penetrate the body’s cells and carry out its mission.

Inovio, which is financed by the US Defense Department and the NGO CEPI, also said it has been included in President Donald Trump’s plan to produce hundreds of millions of doses of the vaccine by January as part of Operation Warp Speed.

Inovio’s medication is the only DNA vaccine that is stable at room temperature for more than a year and does not need refrigeration for transport or storage for several years, said Inovio CEO Joseph Kim.

This is a big plus when it comes to vaccinating people in developing countries, where it is harder to maintain the cold chain needed to preserve many products.

A total of 23 COVID-19 vaccine projects have launched clinical trials on humans, says the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, and several have moved to phase two or three, which means they are being injected into thousands or even tens of thousands of volunteers.

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