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COVID-19 vaccine trials on humans show promise

tracking-corona

A scanning electron micrograph of an apoptotic cell (blue) infected with SARS-COV-2 virus particles (red), also known as novel coronavirus, isolated from a patient sample. Image captured at the NIAID Integrated Research Facility (IRF) in Fort Detrick, Maryland. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, (Reuters)

NEW YORK – The phased reopening of United States business and social life gained traction on Monday with more Americans emerging from coronavirus lockdowns and financial markets boosted by promising early results from the first U.S. vaccine trial in humans.

News of a possible vaccine breakthrough was somewhat overshadowed by President Donald Trump’s surprise announcement hours later that he is taking hydroxychloroquine as a COVID-19 preventive treatment, contrary to medical warnings about such use of the anti-malaria drug.

The disclosure came during Trump’s White House meeting with restaurant executives.

“All I can tell you is so far I seem to be OK,” the president told reporters, saying he has taken a single dose of the drug each day for the past week and a half.

Just ten days ago the White House confirmed that Vice President Mike Pence’s press secretary had tested positive for the coronavirus, 24 hours after Trump’s military valet was diagnosed.

Trump initially promoted hydroxychloroquine in April as a potential COVID-19 treatment based on a positive report about its use against the virus. But subsequent studies have found it to be ineffective, and the Food and Drug Administration has warned of the potential for serious side effects associated with hydroxychloroquine and an older, related drug, chloroquine.

Earlier in the day came word that a COVID-19 vaccine under development by Massachusetts-based biotech firm Moderna Inc. had produced protective antibodies in a small group of healthy volunteers during a safety trial launched in March.

The findings, offering a glimmer of hope that the experimental vaccine may ultimately prove effective, sent Moderna’s shares soaring 20 per cent on Monday and helped lift the overall stock market about 3 per cent to a 10-week high.

Until a vaccine or cure can be found, lockdowns on commerce and social gatherings remain the chief weapon for fighting the pandemic, even while ravaging the U.S. economy.

Public health experts caution that easing stay-at-home orders and mandatory business closures is still risky while diagnostic testing remains scant in many places, leaving in doubt how much virus lurks undetected. (Reuters)

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