Minnesota moves front-and-center in COVID-19 vaccine testing

HealthPartners has started the last phase of clinical trials on a coronavirus vaccine, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have sent a letter to all 50 states telling them to be ready for possible distribution of a vaccine by November.

Dr. Zeke McKinney is involved with the HealthPartners testing, which is now underway, and he told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS the trials will include 1,500 people over two years.

"The two years is to get a total and complete overview of the virus and the vaccine’s efficacy," said McKinney. "But, if the vaccine tests go well, say in 6 months, we will move forward and present it to the FDA for final approval."

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University of Minnesota epidemiologist Dr. Michael Osterholm told KSTP he is "very excited" for the HealthPartners testing in conjunction with pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford.

"I think this is great and a tremendous credit to HealthPartners," said Osterholm. "But I also know pharmaceutical companies will open up test sites in places where they anticipate positive COVID tests to rise, which would not be a good thing for us here in Minnesota."

Osterholm also expressed caution over the CDC announcement to states about preparations for the possible distribution of a vaccine in November.

"We have to make sure the vaccine is proven to work and ready for the public," said Osterholm. "If it is not ready and we cannot guarantee it works, the entire medical profession needs to stand up and say ‘No, we are not going to do this right now.’"

U of M’s top infectious disease expert talks about current COVID-19 situation