Mount Pearl-born researcher says COVID-19 vaccine may be close


Canada’s top doctor has warned Canadians not to assume a COVID-19 vaccine will see an end to public-health measures such as mask-wearing and physical distancing.

But a medical researcher from Mount Pearl is not so sure.

Dr. Stephen Walsh is on a team in Boston that’s in the final phase of human testing on a promising COVID-19 vaccine that may be a first of its kind.

Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam told reporters earlier this month that management of the COVID-19 pandemic will continue for at least a year.

“(We are) certainly planning for the longer term of the next two to three years during which the vaccine may play a role. But we don’t know yet, she said.

Walsh told The Telegram Friday he’s “very optimistic” that U.S. vaccine research being funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health will produce a positive result within months.

“The specific vaccine that we’re testing right now is one made by Moderna,” said Walsh, an infectious disease expert at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “They’ve been in the news, and appropriately so, because they’re the first one out of the gate because their vaccine is effective to manufacture.”

The first two phases of vaccine research involve lower numbers of human participants and deal primarily with laboratory results, side effects and dosage adjustment.

The final phase of testing on the Moderna product, which involves 30,000 participants around the U.S., will provide the final statistical answer as to whether it’s an effective vaccine.

They’ll give an initial shot of the vaccine, and then a booster 30 days later.

“Then we’re going to start counting coronavirus cases. And once we see a statistically significant difference between the two groups, we’ll declare success, or we’ll declare failure.”

However, success does not have to mean perfection. Walsh said.

“If we do a little bit better than the flu vaccine, then we’ll be able to declare a success,” he said. “It would still be a very serious disease, but our society lives with influenza.”

Walsh says that amount of protection might allow public-health officials to loosen restrictions a lot more. US SPREAD GOOD NEWS!

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