UPMC announces vaccine breakthrough

PROMISING NEWS — Dr. Donald Yealy, chairman of emergency medicine for the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, speaks at Thursday’s briefing on the development of the COVID-19 vaccine. -- Scott Beveridge

PITTSBURGH — UPMC physicians announced Thursday that the medical center has developed a COVID-19 vaccine that is on a fast-track for potential approval because of the pandemic.

Dr. Donald Yealy, chairman of emergency medicine at the Pittsburgh medical center, said the vaccine is a “groundbreaking achievement” and the first candidate to reach this milestone in preventing coronavirus.

“That’s what we are delivering,” Yealy said.

In a livestream news conference, Louis Falo, a UPMC professor of dermatology, said the University of Pittsburgh is the same place where Jonas Salk developed the first successful polio vaccine 65 years ago.

The COVID-19 vaccine, if approved, would be delivered in a patch containing micro-needles.

Falo said one person would have the ability to make hundreds of the patches in a single day.

“We hope to move this as quickly as possible,” Falo said.

UPMC also has stepped up testing for the virus.

Yealy said UPMC is not expecting to see widespread outbreaks of COVID-19 as have happened in other areas.

“Social distancing appears to be working,” he said.

Gov. Tom Wolf has imposed strict rules for the closings of nonessential businesses in Pennsylvania, and Wednesday he placed the entire state under a stay-home order to slow the spread of the virus.

UPMC did not have a timeline for when the vaccine could be administered to human patients.


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