At the Lundquist Institute at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Torrance, 62-year old Jorge Vega made history by becoming the first in the Los Angeles area to receive the Oxford University-Astrazeneca COVID-19 vaccine.
"I want a cure for this," Vega said. "We have to stop it somehow and this is a step to do it."
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This vaccine is from one of three companies in the U.S. currently enrolling volunteers into phase three trials. The goal is to determine if it can prevent disease after two doses administered a month apart.
Lead investigator and infectious disease specialist Dr. Eric Daar, said the vaccine doesn't contain a live virus so it can't give you COVID-19.
"They've taken a cold virus they've inactivated so it can't replicate in people, so you can't get that virus from the injection," Daar said. "And then they engineered it so... when it gets into the cells, it will then produce this spike protein."
Vega is a Latino food server who lives in Long Beach. To get approval for the vaccine, researchers need participants from diverse backgrounds.
"The people who have volunteered to participate in this trial are very much representative of the population that we serve here in Los Angeles County," Daar said.
How soon Darr and his colleagues will get results depends on the infection rates in the communities where the vaccine is being tested. But, is it possible to have it ready by this fall?
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"The sooner we see people getting sick, the quicker we can determine whether there were more of them in the placebo group than the treated group," Daar said. "October would be incredibly optimistic for the trials that are ongoing, but that doesn't mean it's impossible."
"We want this to end and I'm doing this for myself and the community," Vega added.
Researchers hope to enroll 30,000 people nationwide, 1,500 of which will be from the Southern California region. Two-thirds will get the vaccine, the rest will receive a placebo.
One big question: How long will the shot protect you? Many experts believe even a finite amount of protection may be enough to break the back of this pandemic.