The Defense Department has selected five sites across several states to stage a Phase III clinical trial for one of the leading COVID-19 vaccine contenders.
“Now that vaccines have passed the first phases of testing for safety, dosing and response, we are ready to move into the next phase where volunteers are needed to join large clinical studies. We are excited to have several sites identified to support the next steps in the vaccine development process.” said Tom McCaffery, assistant defense secretary for health affairs, in a press release.
The sites are Naval Medical Center San Diego in California, Joint Base San Antonio Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas, Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland and Fort Belvoir Community Hospital in Virginia.
The maker of the vaccine candidate, AstraZeneca, is seeking 30,000 volunteers for this U.S. trial. The company is already undertaking late-stage clinical trials in Brazil, the United Kingdom, and South Africa, and has other trials scheduled in Japan and Russia. “These trials, together with the US Phase III clinical trial, will enroll up to 50,000 participants globally. Results from the late-stage trials are anticipated later this year, depending on the rate of infection within the clinical trial communities,” company officials said in a Monday press release.
The vaccine candidate, known as AZD1222 and developed with researchers at Oxford University, is considered one of the promising. In April and May, researchers performed a combined Phase I and II trial that showed that the vaccine was safe, produced no unusual side-effects, and generated a robust immune response. If the vaccine proves effective in the Phase III trial, the company has said, they and their suppliers should be able to produce about 700 million doses by year’s end and two billion doses over time.
The Defense Department is helping to develop and evaluate AZD1222 through the White House’s Operation Warp Speed, which has set the goal of producing an effective vaccine by the end of the year.