WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The race to help develop a coronavirus vaccine will kick off this week in Palm Beach County as the first of several hundred volunteers receive shots.
The trial will begin Tuesday at a medical office located on the JFK Medical Center campus. However, the exact location of the office is being kept a secret.
SPECIAL COVERAGE: Coronavirus
"I'm encouraged by the speed because that what's desperately needed here to control this pandemic," infectious disease specialist Dr. Larry Bush said.
Bush is one of the investigators in the trial of the vaccine, which was developed at Oxford University in England.
Palm Beach County, along with the Miami area, were selected in Florida for the trial, which will look at 31,000 volunteers nationwide. Bush said this vaccine is showing promise in creating antibodies and T cells to fight the virus.
"I don't think it's fair to say they're here because we are the epicenter of COVID. In fact, I’m very proud of where this county has come from and where we are at today. The fact (is) we are at a positivity rate of the half the counties in this state," Bush said.
Several hundred local volunteers are already waiting for the call to participate in the trials, including Barry Snyder of Palm Beach.
"We feel the same way, very enthused about it," Snyder said.
The trial will be a double-blind study, meaning both the doctors and the patients will not know who has the vaccine or a placebo.
Two out of three patients will get the actual vaccine, which also requires a booster shot 29 days later. Health experts said the volunteers will be closely monitored.
"People who did get side effects basically got a mild irritation, maybe a low-grade fever and achiness that day, and that dissipated particularly if they took a drug like Tylenol. Remember, there is no live virus in this vaccine. It's a protein part of the virus," Bush said.
Several vaccines are being tested around the country.
The doctors participating in the Palm Beach County trial know there is a lot of pressure developing a vaccine as quickly as possible that works and is safe.
"Faster than usual, but then again there is a concerted effort by all parties to take the steps necessary to have a vaccine be analyzed and be available as quickly as possible," Dr. James Goldenberg of JEM Research Institute. "In the research business, everything is precise. It's one of the most precise things I've ever done."
The trial is expected to last about eight weeks, but the volunteers will be watched for two years to test long-term immunity.
"I believe there will be a vaccine available by the beginning of 2021. I can't guarantee that, but I believe that," Bush said.
Volunteers are still needed if you'd like to participate, call 561-770-7370 to register.