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Coronavirus vaccine enters final stage of testing with one of the trial sites in Savannah

Before the vaccine hits the market, the FDA needs to approve it. To get that approval, the vaccine needs to be at least 50 percent effective.

SAVANNAH, Ga. — Moderna's coronavirus vaccine trials are entering the last phase of testing. Nearly a hundred sites across the nation are participating, including Meridian Clinical Research in Savannah, Georgia.

"We've got ammunition. Now, we've got to see if we can actually hit the target with the ammunition and that's the point of phase 3," said Dr. Paul Bradley. 

Bradley works at Meridian Clinical Research where on Monday they administered the first doses of the third phase of the vaccine trial.

The two-shot series uses spike protein from the virus to prevent infection. So far, Bradley said it's proven to be generally safe.

"We haven't seen anything worse than maybe some mild flu-like symptoms for a day or so. It's a two-shot series and we tend to only see that on the second shot," he added.

About 30,000 adult volunteers are expected to partake in the trials, including those who are disproportionately affected by the virus. Yet, it can be challenging, Bradley said, to get Hispanics and African Americans to volunteer in these clinical trials. 

"Oftentimes, minority groups are worried about being experimented on, they worry about 'Why are we doing this,' and it's a tougher sell," he said. 

RELATED: World's largest COVID-19 vaccine study begins with 30,000 volunteers

Dr. Patrice Harris, past president for the American Medical Association, said trust is an important factor in participation.

“Historically, our Black and Brown communities have not participated in clinical trials. I absolutely understand it, but I want members of those communities to know that it is absolutely critical that they participate," Harris said.

Bradley agrees, saying wide participation is the only way a vaccine will be effective to all. 

"Assuming it works, it's only going to eradicate COVID if we have a huge percentage of the population get it," Bradley said.

Before the vaccine hits the market, the Food and Drug Administration needs to approve it. To get that approval, the vaccine needs to be at least 50 percent effective.

There are still a few questions about the vaccine as the trial goes into its final stage, such as how long immunity will last once the vaccine is administered.

"Most people would agree that we would expect it to last for a year, but maybe there are good suggestions that it might last longer than that as well," Dr. Bradley added.

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