A 25-year-old recent graduate of the University of California–Irvine became the first person to receive a phase one dose of a new COVID-19 clinical vaccine trial at Hoag Memorial Hospital in Newport Beach, California.
Chen Cao became the first of 35 adults, ages 18 to 55, to be injected with the new trial vaccine when she received the shot on Oct. 21. After approximately three weeks, patients receiving the first shot of the new vaccine will return to the hospital to receive their second dose of the trial.
The clinical trial will test a vaccine currently under development between NantKwest Inc. and ImmunityBio, according to a statement from Hoag Hospital. The vaccine targets two types of proteins, one engineered to activate T-cells for immune response and another to activate antibodies against the disease.
This is the first COVID vaccine trial conducted at Hoag and the first trial of this novel vaccine conducted anywhere in the United States, according to the statement.
Chen told The Epoch Times that she felt nervous prior to the trial “because it’s still a phase one vaccine shot” and was her “very first medical trial experience.”
“I think I just saw it online. And then I just wanted to do good things, I just wanted to help others,” Chen said.
“It's been two days. I mean, it's all good, it's OK. But like yesterday, I'm not sure if it's the vaccine's side effects and all that, but I just feel a little drowsy. A little sleepy, sometimes. But overall I'm all good.”
Chen, who just recently graduated from University of California–Irvine, is originally from Shanghai, China. She was unable to have her family attend her graduation ceremony due to the pandemic.
She said one of the reasons she decided to participate in the trial was due to her isolation.
“My family was planning to come overseas to see my school, attend my graduation and everything, but because of COVID [they couldn’t come], so I spent all my time by myself alone,” she said.
She said the trial is significant because it’s the first vaccine being developed in Orange County and is using new technology. “The hospital and medical industry has a lot of big hope with it,” she said.
Chen said she’s heard many stories of people who have had a really harsh time after contracting COVID-19, so she feels really lucky that she and the people around her have been safe so far.
Dr. Philip Robinson is the medical director of infection prevention at Hoag Memorial Hospital and the principal investigator of the vaccine trial. He said that Hoag is “really excited to be the only hospital that is trialing this second generation COVID vaccine.”
“This particular second generation adenovirus vaccine has been used in other trials in patients who are immunocompromised because of cancer,” Robinson told The Epoch Times.
“It was used in several other cancer trials and it appears to be very, very safe. There were no serious adverse reactions. Most of the reactions were related to redness and soreness at the injection site. Maybe a little low-grade fever and some fatigue.”
He said the vaccine is interesting compared to other vaccines that are already in Phase 3 trials, because unlike the others, this one “delivers two proteins to the immune system.”
“And because of that, it trains both arms of the immune system, so it delivers the spike protein, which induces an antibody response,” Robinson said.
The vaccine also presents the nucleocapsid protein. “By stimulating both arms of that immune system, we hope that it will be much longer lived immunity,” he said.
The hospital statement states, “Since March, Hoag has participated in more than 20 COVID-19 clinical trials, providing patient access to cutting-edge therapies and innovative treatment including options that have documented improved outcomes, including decreased mortality and decreased length of stay for hospitalized COVID-19 patients.”
Robinson added in the statement, “We are privileged to be a part of this groundbreaking clinical trial with NantKwest and ImmunityBio. Since caring for the state’s first known COVID-19 patient back in January, Hoag has been working tirelessly on the frontlines of this rapidly evolving pandemic to care for all of our patients and give them access to the latest advancements in treatment options.”
Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, Chairman and CEO of ImmunityBio and Nantkwest, noted in the statement the advantages the vaccine has over other tested vaccines seen so far.
“Our vaccine candidate, hdA5-COVID-19, is one of the only vaccine candidates in development that targets both the nucleocapsid protein on the interior of the virus particle and the spike protein on the virus’ surface,” Soon-Shiong said.
“We believe this dual targeting is a key advantage that may lead to the stimulation of both T-cell-mediated and antibody-mediated immunity to SARS-CoV-2, which is an important differentiator from other vaccine candidates that only target the spike protein.”
Robinson said: “What's really interesting to think about is Hoag hospital was the very first hospital to see the very first patient, a COVID patient in California, and that was on January 25.
“And now, nine months later, we are the only hospital that is able to offer this vaccine within this clinical trial to our community. And on top of that, this vaccine was actually developed right here in California.”
The goal of the study is to evaluate the safety and reactogenicity of two different doses of the vaccine, according to an ImmunityBio statement. In addition to the injectable vaccine, the companies are also developing oral, inhalational, and intranasal versions of the product.
Participants in the clinical trial will track their health and any symptoms they may experience, and meet with a doctor once a week.