NORTH CANTON, Ohio (WJW) — The race to find a vaccine that will help prevent COVID-19 is reaching the final stages of research in the United States, and a local man is among those volunteering to be injected with the investigative drug.
Pfizer, in collaboration with the German company BioNTech, have been working on an RNA based vaccine that uses the genetic code of SARS-CoV-2 rather than a weakened version of the virus itself to allow the body to generate its own antibodies.
The promising study is reaching its final phase and ready for the involvement of thousands of willing participants, half of whom will be injected with the investigative drug and half of whom will be injected with a placebo.
Among the test sites is Columbus, Ohio-based Aventiv Research, where Steve Tirrell received the first of two injections on Monday.
“I have been following the progress on the vaccines and kind of looking at the clinical trials and things like that, and I saw that some of them were going into phase three studies in July,” said Tirrell.
He will return later this month for a second injection followed by later blood draws to test for antibodies and T-cells.
“I did follow the phase one and phase two studies and actually I thought that the Pfizer one is one of the best ones out, there so I was happy that they were also the one that is close,” said Tirrell.
Dr. Smir Arora, founder of Aventiv Research, says they expect to study 300 participants and there has been no shortage of volunteers.
His company has received responses from people as far away as Vermont and Massachusetts.
“We have had such a tremendous response to this study… I have been doing this for close to fifteen years, I have never seen a response like this,” said Arora.
The science involved in RNA vaccine development enables researchers to increase the pace of development.
Pfizer describes their work on a COVID-19 vaccine as “record breaking speed” for a company that is experienced at developing pharmaceuticals and has at least six successful vaccines in its portfolio.
Dr. Arora says the pace at which the relatively new science behind the vaccine development does not mean that there is any greater risk.
“Not having a live virus, not injecting a live virus, the side effect profile is much cleaner, patients don’t get sick by getting it and really tend to do much better this way,” Arora explained.
The trials are conducted with the involvement of the FDA and all of the customary scientific protocols that are necessary for the successful approval of the drug.
“These are being done at a rapid speed but done with all the right safety and protection for our subjects and get the best results possible,” said Arora.
Tirrell, who owns two franchise ‘Cartridge World’ stores, says he understands there are people who are reluctant to allow themselves to be injected even with an approved vaccine, but he hopes to be a part of something that will help return everyone’s life back to normal.
“We are going to be stuck in this semi life until we get a vaccine and then people can get back to normal and that’s what I want is to go back to normal,” said Tirrell.
“A vaccine is probably the one thing that we believe can help get some of our life back to normal and it’s a race to get the first one out as soon as possible,” said Arora.
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