Triangle research facilities help with trials for promising Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine

Coronavirus

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Pfizer announced on Monday a vaccine candidate to fight against COVID-19 is showing to be more than 90 percent effective.

There have been trials all over the country, including in the Triangle, for this vaccine. George Washington III knows the wrath of COVID-19 too well. Although he and his brother survived having it, his father did not.

“Too many people have had to suffer through this,” said Charlotte resident Washington III.

That’s why he’s relieved to hear progress is being made with a vaccine.

“To think that families won’t have to endure the pain, suffering, and the loss my family went through — all the better,” Washington III said.

The Pfizer study enrolled nearly 44,000 people with diverse backgrounds. Researchers then analyzed 94 participants with the virus.

“That’s fantastic news. It’s as good of a first step as we could’ve hoped for, I think realistically,” said Dr. Thomas Holland, infectious disease doctor at Duke University.

Holland with Duke University said the 90 percent effective rate may change as more participants are followed.

Duke is one of several places conducting COVID-19 vaccine trials, including this one for Pfizer.

“Almost the most promising thing to come out of the news today is evidence that a vaccine can work,” Holland said.

Wake Research in Raleigh is also working on the vaccine for Pfizer.

Heat Biologics in Research Triangle Park is also working on a vaccine to combine with one like Pfizer’s to generate a more robust immune response.

“To provide an extra layer of protection, especially for those patients who need it most,” said Dr. Jeff Wolf, founder and CEO of Heat Biologics.

Wolf said they plan to start a clinical trial in 2021.

“I think the progress the industry’s made has been really incredible,” Wolf said.

The industry’s working at an unprecedented speed to keep others from having to go through what the Washington family did.

Based on the speed they’ve been going, the Pfizer vaccine could be used on people within two or three months.

One detail Holland pointed out is it does need to be kept in freezing temperatures, which could be a challenge in the distribution process.

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