14:24 GMT23 September 2020
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    Italy on Monday launched human trials of GRAd-COV2, a potential COVID-19 vaccine developed by Rome-based biotechnology company ReiThera.

    The trial is being conducted by Rome’s Lazzaro Spallanzani Hospital, which specializes in infectious diseases. Over the next few weeks, 90 volunteers will receive the vaccine, Reuters reported.

    Francesco Vaia, the hospital’s health director, told Reuters the first patient to receive the vaccine was a 50-year-old woman who was monitored for four hours before being permitted to go home. 

    The unidentified woman will remain under observation for 12 weeks at home to determine if she produced any antibodies to the novel coronavirus or experienced any side-effects from the vaccine.

    “I believe in Italian science. I hope that my choice will be useful and that people will be more responsible,” the woman, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told Italian news media, according to the Anadolu Agency.

    More than 5,000 people applied to participate in the vaccine trial, but only individuals in perfect health were chosen. 

    The trial is being financed by the country’s Lazio administrative region and the Italian Research Ministry.

    "We will see if it produces any side effects and if it produces neutralizing antibodies," Vaia explained, also noting that the second phase of testing will be conducted in countries with high COVID-19 infection rates, such as Mexico and Brazil.

    “I am very satisfied and proud of this,” Vaia noted, the Anadolu Agency reported. "If all goes well and we finish this trial within this year, we could have the vaccine ready by next spring on a commercial basis."

    The vaccine has produced positive results in early trials on animals. 

    Italy was one of the worst-hit countries amid the pandemic but managed to contain its outbreak by implementing strict lockdown measures throughout the country. The latest data by Worldometer shows that more than 260,000 cases of COVID-19 have been reported in the country, and more than 35,000 people have died as a result. Over the past month, case counts in the country have increased.

    Russia in early August became the first country to approve a COVID-19 vaccine. The drug, named Sputnik V, was developed by Russia’s Gamaleya Research Institute. Production of the vaccine has already started at the Russian company AFK Sistema's Binnopharm pharmaceutical factory. 

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