COVID-19 Daily: First Vaccine Data,
Antibody Test Issues

Ellie Kincaid

May 18, 2020

Editor's note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape's Coronavirus Resource Center.

Here are the coronavirus stories Medscape's editors around the globe think you need to know about today: 

First Vaccine Data From Moderna

The first coronavirus vaccine tested on humans has yielded promising early clinical data from the phase 1 study led by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), the biotech company Moderna announced today in a news release. 

The company did not publish detailed data in a preprint or scientific journal, but in its press release said that all 45 participants across three study arms receiving different doses — 25, 100 or 250 micrograms — seroconverted 2 weeks after their first dose. Antibodies from eight people who received doses of 25 and 100 micrograms were tested for their ability to neutralize live
SARS-CoV-2 in vitro, and all eight participants had neutralizing antibodies in amounts equal to or greater than those found in people who have recovered from COVID-19, the company said.

At least 90 potential COVID-19 vaccines are in different stages of development, and six are currently in clinical trials. 

Are the Results From Antibody Tests Overly Optimistic?

Results emerging from antibody testing studies raise hopes of nailing down how many people may have already been infected and have some immunity, as well as hint at COVID-19's true severity. 

But first, we need to know that the tests can tell the difference between someone who has had COVID-19 and someone who has been infected with other common coronaviruses, epidemiologist William P. Hanage, PhD, of Harvard's T.H. Chan School of Public Health writes in Medscape. "Getting this wrong is bad for understanding immunity in the population, and it's disastrous for an individual," he writes. 

A Quick Summary of the COVID-19 Literature

Since March 25, two HIV clinical fellows at Boston hospitals have recorded a biweekly deep dive into the most compelling COVID-19 data. Their presentations have become "must-see" TV (or rather, YouTube) for anyone trying to make sense of all the pandemic-related literature. They summarized for Medscape what they've learned so far, including tables that pull together the published clinical trials of drugs under investigation and key findings about the virus' mode of transmission. 

In a Q&A, Eric Meyerowitz, MD, and Aaron Richterman, MD, MPH, describe their process: lots of texting, and 80 to 100 hours of work to prepare each presentation. "For better or worse, this is the job right now," Richterman said. "I mean, everything is basically around COVID-19. All of my other work is basically on hold. All my clinical work is focused on this."

International Medical Graduates Face Difficulties

Problems associated with the COVID-19 pandemic may prevent international medical graduates from attending US residency programs, which jeopardizes their key role in supplementing the physician workforce. Hyechang "HC" Rhim, MD, shares his story of testing dates, visas, observerships, and research presentations being canceled. "I know that this distress is sincerely nothing compared with what those who suffered from COVID-19 and lost loved ones have experienced," he writes, "but the uncertainty is still disturbing."

Remdesivir Trials Ending Soon

Gilead Sciences' two clinical studies of its potential coronavirus treatment remdesivir will wind down by the end of this month, say researchers at institutions enrolling patients in the trials, Reuters reports. As the open-label trials close, most COVID-19 patients will soon have access only through the US Food and Drug Administration's emergency use authorization. Physicians have criticized the lack of clarity in how the federal government is distributing the supply of remdesivir that Gilead donated for use under the emergency authorization.  

In Memoriam

As frontline healthcare workers care for patients with COVID-19, they commit themselves to difficult, draining work and also put themselves at risk of infection. More than 1000 throughout the world have died. 

Medscape has published a memorial list to commemorate them. We will continue updating this list as, sadly, needed. Please help us ensure this list is complete by submitting names with an age, profession or specialty, and location through this form

Ellie Kincaid is Medscape's associate managing editor. She has previously written about healthcare for Forbes, the Wall Street Journal, and Nature Medicine.

For more news, follow Medscape on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube, and follow Ellie Kincaid on Twitter @ellie_kincaid.

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