The first COVID-19 vaccine to reach clinical trials in humans was determined to be both safe and generate an immune response against the virus — a “milestone” in the battle to defeat the deadly bug, a new study found.
A single dose of the vaccine was found to produce virus-fighting antibodies and T cells, a type of immune cell, two weeks after it’s administered, according to the peer-reviewed study, published Friday in the journal The Lancet.
“These results represent an important milestone,” the lead researcher on the study, Professor Wei Chen, said.
Producing both antibodies and T cells is an ideal result for a vaccine, the researchers said. A vaccine that does both not only triggers the body to produce virus-specific immune cells, but also supports the body’s innate immune response.
But the potential vaccine is far from being made available for widespread use. Further trials are needed to determine whether the vaccine effectively protects against infection — rather than just triggers an immune response to the virus.
“The challenges in the development of a COVD-19 vaccine are unprecedented, and the ability to trigger these immune responses does not necessarily indicate that the vaccine will protect humans from COVID-19,” Chen said.
“This result shows a promising vision for the development of COVID-19 vaccines, but we are still a long way from this vaccine being available to all.”
The study’s authors also noted that their research is limited because of its small sample size and short duration, and it also lacked a control group.
The study, conducted in Wuhan, China, by the Beijing Institute of Biotechnology tested different doses of the vaccine in 108 healthy adults who did not have the coronavirus.
The vaccine produced no serious adverse effects at all doses — and was tolerated well among the adults who took it, according to the research.
After two weeks, the vaccine produced virus-fighting antibodies across all dose levels, with the highest dose level triggering antibodies in 61 percent of those who took it.
A majority of participants also produced virus-fighting T cells two weeks after taking the vaccine, which were also greatest at the higher dose levels.
The Beijing Institute of Biotechnology’s vaccine is just one of dozens being studied around the world as public health authorities desperately search for a cure for the pandemic, which has already killed more than 94,000 people in the US alone.
Another promising experimental vaccine from Oxford University also reached a milestone Friday, with researchers announcing they will be progressing to advanced stages of human trials in more than 10,000 volunteers.