Israeli launches human trials of home-grown coronavirus vaccine

First recipient gets vaccinated: “This is the small donation that I can give to… bring hope that we are on the way to ending the pandemic.”

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

The human trial of Israel’s home-grown coronavirus vaccine began Sunday when the first recipient was vaccinated at Sheba Medical Center.

The latest phase of clinical trials of the corona vaccine developed by the Israel Institute for Biological Research (IIBR) is being conducted at Sheba near Tel Aviv and at Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital in Jerusalem. The two hospitals were chosen because both have large facilities for clinical research where 100 volunteers will participate in the first phase of the human testing.

The first Israeli to be vaccinated was Segev Harel, a 26-year-old student from Sde Nehemia in the northern Galilee who was laid off from his job due to the pandemic and said he had no qualms about offering himself up as a guinea pig for the test.

“I decided to volunteer for the experiment for several simple reasons. First of all I see it as a great privilege to help and to donate,” Harel said in a video made Saturday evening after packing his bag for the trip to Sheba with his lucky Maccabi Haifa soccer team scarf going into his suitcase last.

“Many people have been hurt by corona, healthwise, mentally and principally financially, and if this is the small donation that I can give to participate in this and bring hope that we are on the way to ending the pandemic, then I did my part,” Harel said.

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Asked if he had any fears, Harel replied that he “thinks it will all be OK, I’m even sure of it,” adding that his family was fully behind his “opportunity to do this truly historic thing.”

“Of course, like everything else in life there is a risk… it’s my decision and the deeper I dig into the subject, the more I’m at peace with my decision,” Harel said.

According to Sheba, the test vaccine uses a different virus that isn’t harmful to humans, but with a component of the coronavirus that is responsible for the virus binding to human cells. The vaccine is designed so that the body’s immune system recognizes the binding site and develops antibodies against it, thus preventing the coronavirus from binding to the healthy cell.

The IIBR reported success in animal trials conducted over the summer, as hamsters that received the vaccine did not get sick and developed antibodies against the coronavirus.

Candidates for the first trial had to be over 18 years old without a past or present verified coronavirus infection. They will be monitored over the course of the next year for side effects and resistance to the coronavirus.

If the first stage of the human trials show that the vaccine does not cause significant side effects, the trials will then be expanded to hundreds of volunteers to determine the vaccine’s efficacy.

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