With MUSC trial underway, fourth COVID-19 vaccine waits for approval

With MUSC trial underway, fourth COVID-19 vaccine waits for approval
Medical staff prepares an AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine during preparations at the vaccine center in Ebersberg near Munich, Germany, Monday. (Source: AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - A fourth vaccine, currently undergoing trials at MUSC in Charleston, could be one step closer to approval in the United States.

Officials with AstraZeneca say the U.S. study of its vaccine shows it provides strong protection against the virus for adults of all ages.

AstraZeneca says the vaccine is 79 percent effective at preventing symptomatic cases of COVID-19, according to researchers.

In the U.S. study, the company says their vaccine showed 100 percent efficacy against severe disease and hospitalization from COVID-19. The same goes for the three vaccines being used in the U.S.

Dr. Robert Oliverio with Roper St. Francis Health Care says AstraZeneca’s vaccine is easier to administer because it can be refrigerated for up to six months, not requiring ultra-cold storage.

“It’s going to be great for clinics, it’s going to be great for rural or difficult places to access,” Oliverio said. “Hopefully, it will improve our ability to get the vaccine to the places where it’s difficult to get patients to the vaccine.”

Oliverio is the Chief Medical Officer for Ambulatory Care and Population Health at Roper. He says the vaccine is widely used in Europe.

Recently, in other countries there were concerns about this vaccine and blood clots. However, European scientists later found no link between the two.

MUSC is currently conducting a trial of the AstraZeneca vaccine. Trial participant Kelly Warren was excited to hear the updates regarding its effectiveness.

“I would love to see a fourth vaccine authorized,” Warren said. “I think it’ll be great to get more people vaccinated faster and so we can all return to the lives we had before COVID.”

The next step is for the FDA advisory committee to discuss the findings of the vaccine study before deciding on emergency-use authorization.

“I decided to participate in this trail because I thought it was a great way to move the needle a little bit further,” Warren said. “I knew every person who participated in the trial, we got a little bit closer to another vaccine being authorized, which means we can return to normal. I wanted to try to get vaccinated as soon as possible.”

The AstraZeneca shot has been authorized in more than 70 countries.

Oliverio encourages people to get the vaccine that’s available to them.

“Don’t shop for it,” Oliverio said. “If you need milk, grab a jug of milk, you need a vaccine, grab a vaccine. Don’t shop for it, all of these vaccines are good.”

As of Friday, more than 1 million in South Carolina have started the vaccination process. The state’s Department of Health and Environmental Control says 578,300 have completed the process, either by taking two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or one dose of the Janssen vaccine.

That represents 14.1% of the state’s population, DHEC says.

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