Testing on volunteers of an Italian candidate vaccine began in Rome on Monday at the National Infectious Diseases Institute at Spallanzani hospital.
Ninety people were selected out of some 7,000 who offered to be inoculated with the vaccine, known as GRAd-COV2, in Phase One. The vaccine is produced by ReiThera, a biotech company near Rome.
Half the participants are younger than 55 and half are older than 65. The institute’s health director, Francesco Vaia, told reporters that the aim is to “work well, also quickly, but above all well” in trying to achieve what would be Italy’s first vaccine against COVID-19.
Phase One will last 24 weeks and aims to test safety and tolerance. If all goes well, subsequent phases will involve higher numbers of volunteers and will also be conducted abroad, likely in Latin American countries, which currently are much harder hit by the coronavirus pandemic than Italy.
“Having an Italian vaccine means not being a slave or servant of other countries which will say ‘me, first,’’’ said Giuseppe Ippolito, Spallanzani’s scientific director.