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Army researchers start coronavirus vaccine testing on primates at Maryland’s Fort Detrick

Army researchers at Fort Detrick in Frederick began testing possible vaccines for the coronavirus on animals Monday, Department of Defense officials announced.

The United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases is performing the tests on “non-human primates,” said Jonathan Hoffman, the department’s assistant to the secretary of defense for public affairs, at a Pentagon press briefing Monday. The Defense Department is involved in five clinical vaccine trials while also supporting the efforts of other federal agencies, said Air Force Brig. Gen. (Dr.) Paul Friedrichs, Joint Staff surgeon.

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“I think it’s important for everyone to keep in mind that this is a process that is going as quickly as it can,” Friedrichs said. “We’re balancing, again, that risk of how do we make sure any vaccine candidates are safe?”

After the animal trials, the testing will move to a small group of people in hopes of expanding to a larger group, Friedrichs said. Citing Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, Friedrichs noted that these efforts don’t guarantee a vaccine in the near future.

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“Only when we know that they are both safe and effective will we be able to offer them more widely to larger numbers," Friedrichs said. “We’re making progress on those. I don’t want to create a false expectation, though, that a vaccine is right around the corner.

"As has been briefed by Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx and many others, we are still months away, not weeks away, from a vaccine.”

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