PALO ALTO, Calif. - One thousand Bay Area volunteers could represent the leading edge in the race to create a COVID-19 vaccine. Stanford University is using the group as part of the final stage trials on a virus vaccine.
The first two phases of the clinical trial dealt with safety and dosage. They have been completed with no side effects in people or animals. Now, Stanford researchers are moving to phase three, and hope positive results will produce a COVID vaccine, perhaps as soon as next year.
On October 30, Walter Sobba was the first of 1,000 local people to sign up to be subjects in Stanford’s trial.
“Vaccines are going to be probably the best way moving forward. And if I have the possibility to try and contribute to this effort of developing a vaccine, it’s gonna be a small effort to try to do what I can for a number of other people,” said Sobba.
Stanford represents one of 180 global sites testing a new COVID vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson. Principal Investigator Dr. Philip Grant said he’s looking for test subjects facing a higher risk of COVID infection. The 23-year-old Sobba fits in well, since he’s a recent college graduate who does in-person tutoring.
“You need to be able to show it improves the condition you’re studying. So for us, we’re looking to see if it reduces the number of coronavirus infections,” said Dr. Grant.
A total of 60,000 subjects across the globe will be injected with either a placebo or the vaccine. The test vaccine is altered to contain the spike protein seen on the outside of the coronavirus. But, it will not spread throughout a person’s body.
“So the body will produce the spike proteins, and then the body will make an immune response to the spike protein,” said Dr. Grant.
Subjects in both the placebo and vaccine groups will be studied for two years to judge effectiveness.
“And what they wanna see in the case of the placebo, has more people get infected than people on the vaccine. And they have to wait long enough, for that difference in infection rates to be statistically significant,” said Dr. Mark Schwartz, a San Jose State University biotechnologist.
Walter Sobba said he feels fine since being injected and is glad he can do his part to help find a cure for COVID-19.
“It’s not so much about me. But hopefully my story or my experience can encourage others to try to go out there and engage in this process just generally. And we’re all just trying to play our part,” said Sobba.
Researchers hope to have all 1,000 people by the end of this year. If all goes well, the FDA could give the green light for vaccine usage four months after that.
See if you qualify for the study.