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Man who lost 7 relatives to COVID-19 becomes first American to trial Oxford vaccine

10:18 | 03/09/2020

A Boynton Beach man who lost seven loved ones to coronavirus has become the first American dosed with Oxford University and AstraZeneca's vaccine as part of their clinical trial last weekend.

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man who lost 7 relatives to covid 19 becomes first american to trial oxford vaccine
Man who lost 7 relatives to COVID-19 becomes the first American to trial Oxford vaccine (Photo: CBS News)

Oxford University researchers have started the final round of testing for their COVID-19 vaccine in the U.S. — a significant leading step in the race to beat the coronavirus pandemic, CBS cited.

Oxford researchers, in partnership with AstraZeneca, started dosing the first volunteers in Florida on Friday, and 31 Americans received either the vaccine or placebo throughout the weekend, as part of the clinical trial.

During the third and final phase, the vaccine is tested for safety and how effective it is at reducing or blocking COVID-19 symptoms. The Food and Drug Administration would then consider approving it for public use.

Jacob Serrano, 23 years old, is among 31 volunteers for a Florida trial of a potential vaccine developed by Oxford and AstraZeneca — and the first to try the drug when the final phase of US trials got underway on Friday, according to the New York Post.

Answering the CBS interview, Serrano said that the vaccine trial is a mission he wanted to fulfill after losing cousins, aunts, and uncles, a total of seven family members to the coronavirus.

“Each person that’s taken away from your life, it’s a big shift,” Serrano said.

man who lost 7 relatives to covid 19 becomes first american to trial oxford vaccine
The trial took place in Atlantis last Friday. (Photo: CBS News)

The 23-year-old didn’t know what to expect when he arrived to do the study inside JEM Research Institute near JFK Medical Center Main Campus in Atlantis last Friday. He's confident he was injected with the Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccine and not the placebo. He knew of the risks, but Serrano says it’s his way of being a part of the solution to save lives, no matter what it takes.

AstraZeneca researchers tested tens of thousands of volunteers overseas in places like the U.K. and South Africa, and are planning the same trials in Russia and Japan.

Dr. Larry Bush, the principal investigator to this Palm Beach County site, says he is hopeful.

“In phase one in two trials, the vaccine has been proven that not only do you get robust neutralizing antibodies to fight the coronavirus, you get a t-cell response, another arm of the immune system to fight off the cells that do become infected. That's crucial in treating infections,” Dr. Bush said.

The pharmaceutical company is expecting to have the trial results from this last stage later this year. AstraZeneca claims to have the capability of manufacturing two billion doses by the summer of 2021. The U.S. has reportedly already ordered 300 million doses.

The Oxford team found that its vaccine provoked an immune response and didn’t produce any serious side effects. The vaccine prompted neutralising antibodies—the kind that defend cells against attack from virus—in at least nine out of ten of those who had a single dose of the vaccine, according to The wired.

The immune response peaked 28 days after the vaccine, but it remained high until day 56, which was the final day covered by this scientific paper. The study is still ongoing.

The results are from a study involving 1,077 healthy adults aged between 18 and 55. Half of the participants received the new Covid-19 vaccine, while the other half—the control group—received a vaccine against a bacterial infection. Although no serious side effects were reported, around 70 percent of participants developed either a fever or a headache, although this was lower in a subgroup of participants who took a paracetamol around the same time they had the vaccination.

At this stage, the study can’t tell us whether people who have the vaccine are protected against contracting Covid-19, but it does tell us that the vaccine is safe to use and that it provokes an immune response.

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Valerie Mai