Credit: Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

The vaccine we’ve been waiting for is now entering its final stages.

Yesterday morning, Moderna Theraputics and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) announced that the very first volunteer for COVID-19 vaccine testing had received their injection. The final stage to determine the vaccine’s efficiency in battling the coronavirus has officially begun.

To determine the vaccine’s efficiency in fighting the virus, the NIAID is conducting a double-blind study with two groups of test subjects. One group will receive the experimental vaccine, while the other group will receive a placebo with no effects. Neither the subjects nor the researchers know which group is receiving which injection; the information will only be revealed once the test has concluded. In this way, researchers can determine whether a response to a virus is due to the vaccine, or normal human body processes.

“The collaboration between the NIH and Moderna, with much support from Operation Warp Speed has now reached a point where we have a chance to find out in the real world…what the status of the vaccine is in its ability to protect against disease and be safe,” said Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health.

Credit: Hans Pennink/AP

Researchers are hoping to run the test on at least 30,000 applicants by the fall. In order to provide the most relevant results, the researchers are looking for volunteers in vulnerable groups, such as health care workers and those living in high-risk areas of the US. The tests are being conducted throughout a network of 89 testing sites around the country.

“I think we will get a good sampling where the activity of the virus, or transmission, is currently going on in the country,” said NIAID director Dr. Anthony Fauci.

The NIH has launched a website calling for volunteers to the study. Currently, over 150,000 people have registered to be volunteers. While not all of these people will be accepted into the study, Dr. Colins says that this is a good sign that they’ll be able to reach their 30,000 volunteer quota quickly.

Taking into account the rate of viral circulation, how long it’ll take to get 30,000 volunteers, and the time necessary for the first shot to circulate through the first test subjects, Dr. Fauci estimates that we could have concrete test results by November.