This week marked several announcements regarding COVID-19. The World Health Organization (WHO) was called out by a group of aerosol science experts regarding its supposed refusal to acknowledge another mode of transmission. Another development comes from researchers which suggest the disease can also affect the heart among other major organs. While these are definitely distressing news, the most recent update will hopefully ignite hope around the globe. It appears that an experimental vaccine for the 2019 novel coronavirus has performed favourably in early-stage human trials in the United States.

Based on the findings submitted by the team who oversaw the testing, it elicited the desired immune responses from volunteers and apparently has little to no side effects. Being deemed generally safe means the study could push forward and may soon receive approval from regulators. Dr. Anthony Fauci, a leading figure on infectious diseases, describes the results as "good news" in the fight against the health crisis.

According to the report published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the first 45 healthy subjects received the experimental vaccine from Moderna Inc. in March. Follow-up testing did not reveal any dangerous side effects, which is exactly what clinical trials hope for. Moreover, blood samples taken from the volunteers show the presence of antibodies that can theoretically prevent infection. Equally notable is that the levels are similar to those of COVID-19 patients who have recovered.

Dr. Lisa Jackson, the study's leader, stated: "This is an essential building block that is needed to move forward with the trials that could actually determine whether the vaccine does protect against infection." So far, the volunteers reported headaches, chills, fatigue, and muscle aches. These were observed in individuals who were given the highest dosage and others who received a second dose. Nevertheless, there were no serious complications overall worth pointing out.

US biotech firm
A US biotech firm Moderna has reported 'positive interim' results in early testing of a vaccine candidate Photo: AFP / Thibault Savary

Later this month Moderna Inc. will proceed to the next phase which will involve around 30,000 volunteers. This will allow scientists to have a comprehensive overview of how well the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine performs. Meanwhile, another potential vaccine from the University of Oxford is already in the third phase of its large-scale human trials. However, results from the initial phase of the trials are yet to be published.