Van Hollen, Cardin and Raskin Tour NIH Lab

A vaccine to protect against the current strain of coronavirus is about 12 to 18 months away, but work is well underway and an initial trial on 40 healthy people is expected to begin next week in Washington State.

The next step will be to test the vaccine on a much larger group that includes healthy people as well as those who are elderly or have a compromised immune system. Part of the group will be given a placebo, according to U.S. Sens. Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin and Rep. Jamie Raskin, who toured a lab in the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda where work on the vaccine is being conducted this afternoon.

They came away impressed with all they saw and the researchers and doctors they spoke.

Normally, creating a vaccine for a new disease can take three years, but this is going much more quickly because of its similarities to the MERS coronavirus of 2013 and other flu strains as well as data obtained from seeing what was happening in China, Raskin said during a press conference outside the NIH.

The NIH also is working with private researchers to develop both the vaccine and possible treatments.

“We have the world experts,” Cardin said, noting, “This will be the fastest vaccine of its kind ever developed.”

The politicians pledged to make sure that once the vaccine, or treatment, becomes available, it will be covered by insurance and affordable to those on a low income.

“We know that the viruses come every year the way the flu continues to come,” Raskin said, noting that it is better to be able to foresee an illness.

“The goal is to get on top of it and not thrown back every time it occurs,” he said of the various strains of coronavirus.

“You need to be able to plan ahead,” Van Hollen added.

Van Hollen said he was told that the current strain of coronavirus may be around for several seasons.

Congress just allocated $8.2 billion to fight this virus, he said.

Part of that money will go to pay for about one million testing kits that are being sent to private labs.

Currently only the CDC and state labs, including one in Baltimore City, can conduct the tests.

The Maryland politicians also noted that the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta allocated $500 million to this state once it learned that three residents – a couple in their 70s and a female in her fifties – had tested positive for CORVID-19.

The three people had traveled on a cruise, where another vacationer had tested positive.

They currently are at home in isolation and most of their symptoms have abated.

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