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Seattle plays big role in coronavirus vaccine that boosted immune response

Researchers and volunteers in the Puget Sound region are advancing toward testing a COVID-19 vaccine on thousands of people to see if it really does work.

SEATTLE — A Seattle researcher who’s studying a coronavirus vaccine undergoing clinical trials is pleased with early results that show the vaccine mounts an immune response.

The vaccine, which is being developed by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and drugmaker Moderna, was the first to be tested in the U.S. On Tuesday, researchers reported 45 volunteers developed neutralizing antibodies in their bloodstream similar to levels seen in patients who survived COVID-19.

“Seeing this is just wonderful,” said Dr. John Dunn, a researcher with the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle.

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Dunn said so far there’s no serious safety concerns with the vaccine, which is given in two shots, a month apart. One of the participants, Neal Browning of Bothell, said he did experience a little soreness at the injection site the morning after he received a dose but that only lasted a few minutes.

“Much like you'd get when you had a typical flu shot,” Browning said.

Researchers are still waiting to see how the vaccine affects people over the age of 55, which is a population more vulnerable to serious illness.

They also don't yet know how long the immunity from this experimental vaccine lasts. That's something they're still studying.

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However, Dunn praised these early results as a big step.

“The advancement of knowledge of medicine in general is usually made up of hundreds of little tiny steps and this, as little steps go, this is a big one in fact,” Dunn said.

By the end of the month, the trial will expand to include 30,000 participants, who will help prove if the vaccine can indeed extinguish the coronavirus.

The Associated Press contributed.