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US begins coronavirus vaccine trial as worldwide governments impose 'lockdowns'

Researchers are racing to create vaccines for the deadly virus [Getty]

Date of publication: 16 March, 2020

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As the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread across the world, dozens of research groups around the world are racing to create a vaccine.
The first experimental coronavirus vaccine will be administered to a patient on Monday, AP News reported, according to a US government official.

The trial in Seattle, which is funded by The National Institutes of Health, will bring together 45 young, healthy volunteers who will receive different doses of shots co-developed by NIH and Moderna Inc, the report stated.

The vaccine itself does not contain the virus, meaning there is zero chance the participants will become infected. The aim of the test is to check whether the vaccine will have negative side effects on patients before being rolled out to the public.

However, even if initial safety tests go well, "you're talking about a year to a year and a half” before any vaccine could be ready for widespread use, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases told AP News.

The COVID-19 virus, which was first detected in China's Wuhan in December, has killed more than 6,526 people worldwide, while over 170,855 infections have been confirmed.

Read also: Islamic State's advice for fighting coronavirus: 'Put your faith in God'

The majority of those that become infected experience only mild or moderate symptoms, including fever and a dry cough.

However, concerns have been raised for the elderly and those with existing health issues, who have reportedly suffered with more severe complications, including pneumonia and even death.

As of yet, there are no known treatments for the virus, though more than 77,781 have already recovered from the infection.

The World Health Organisation has confirmed those who experience a milder version of the virus recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover.

As the pandemic continues to spread across the world, dozens of research groups around the world are racing to create a vaccine while governments continue to impose strict restrictions or "lockdowns" to help stem the spread of the virus.

'Back to normality'

In China, where the novel coronavirus was first detected, authorities declared they had "basically" curbed the spread of the disease.

On Monday, Chinese social media users criticised Europe and the United States over how they have handled the pandemic, which has spread rapidly on their shores in recent weeks.

One coronavirus-themed hashtag was viewed 55 million times on China's Twitter-like Weibo site, with many users saying they wished US President Donald Trump was infected and others calling for "strict" controls to prevent imported cases.

"Can't let our previous efforts go to waste!" one user said.

Another popular hashtag with 820 million views condemned a strategy of "herd immunity" proposed by experts in Britain and France that would allow the virus to spread slowly, with some saying it meant "surrender".

The country has touted the effectiveness of quarantining the central city of Wuhan - where the virus first emerged - and surrounding Hubei province since late January along with restrictions on large gatherings and travel.

But in a sign of the slow return to normality, four cities in Hubei have chartered vehicles to now allow more than 1,600 migrant workers to return to their factories outside the province.

China's death toll from the virus now stands at 3,213 after 14 more fatalities were reported on Monday, while fewer than 10,000 people are currently still infected, down from tens of thousands in recent weeks.

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