Cincy Children's Hospital tests AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine

New vaccine could be ready by month's end
Posted at 10:00 PM, Jan 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-09 15:14:32-05

CINCINNATI — Getting people vaccinated against COVID-19 is a race against time, and amid the rollout of vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna, state leaders and local health officials alike have expressed frustration about struggles to meet demand.

But local scientists in Cincinnati are working to change that.

Vaccines from AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson could be weeks from emergency use authorization. Some of the research for AstraZeneca is being done locally at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.

“I think within a couple of months we’re going to have plenty of vaccine,” Cincinnati Children’s Hospital director of vaccine research center Dr. Robert Frenck said.

That’s because two more companies are joining the ranks of Pfizer and Moderna.

“I’m really expecting that the AstraZeneca vaccine will have that EUA by the end of this month,” Frenck said.

Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine, which requires only one dose, is expected to apply in February – and if they get emergency use authorization, it could give vaccine rollout a much-needed shot in the arm.

“One of the great things about both of these vaccine platforms is that the companies can make lots of doses quickly, so that Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) have all said that by the end of the year, they can each produce about 1 billion doses of the vaccine,” Frenck said.

There are close to 1,000 people enrolled in the vaccine studies, which started in the spring of 2020. Thus far, side effects have been rare and mild.

“There’s absolutely no evidence that the vaccine is associated with infertility at all,” Frenck said. “There’s also no evidence that the vaccine incorporates in your DNA. That’s what people have been worried about, that it changes your genetic material. It does not happen.”

He said the bigger battle won’t be supply, but demand. Many worry about safety, but Frenck warns that COVID-19 itself remains the far greater threat.

“The reason the vaccine is so critical is because that’s the way we’re going to break this cycle,” he said. “That’s the way we’re going to get back to normal.”

Frenck said there could be a vaccine licensed for children ages 12 and up by next school year – an important step for young people who usually have mild cases but could spread the virus to high-risk groups.

On Thursday, coronavirus death totals topped 4,000 in the U.S.