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An experimental vaccine against the coronavirus showed encouraging results in very early testing, triggering hoped-for immune responses in eight healthy, middle-aged volunteers

Study volunteers given either a low or medium dose of the vaccine by Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Moderna Inc. had antibodies similar to those seen in people who have recovered from COVID-19.

In the next phase of the study, led by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, researchers will try to determine which dose is best for a definitive experiment that they aim to start in July.

In all, 45 people have received one or two shots of the vaccine, which was being tested at three different doses. The kind of detailed antibody results needed to assess responses are only available on eight volunteers so far.

The vaccine seems safe, the company said, but much more extensive testing is needed to see if it remains so. A high dose version is being dropped after spurring some short-term side effects.

The results have not been published and are only from the first of three stages of testing that vaccines and drugs normally undergo. U.S. government officials have launched a project called “Operation Warp Speed” to develop a vaccine and hopefully have 300 million doses by January.

Worldwide, about a dozen vaccine candidates are in the first stages of testing or nearing it. Health officials have said that if all goes well, studies of a potential vaccine might wrap up by very late this year or early next year.

More than 4.7 million infections and 315,000 deaths from the coronavirus have been confirmed worldwide since it emerged in China late last year. There are no specific approved treatments, although several are being used on an emergency basis after showing some promise in preliminary testing.

BOSTON (AP) — Centenarians have always been a rare breed. Now they’re an endangered species.

The 100-plus crowd — those most venerable of human beings — is succumbing rapidly and heartbreakingly to the coronavirus pandemic. Entire limbs are being lopped off family trees, and their wisdom and lore are dying with them.

“We’ve been really upset,” said Thomas Perls, a professor of medicine and geriatrics at Boston University who directs the New England Centenarian Study. “We’re seeing a higher rate of people passing away … cutting these incredible lives shorter.”

“For families, they’re the pride and joy, the anchor, the link to the family’s history. They’re a huge big deal,” he said. “If you have a healthy centenarian who’s cognitively intact with no signs of Alzheimer’s, to me they’re practically immortal. COVID has interfered with that formula for sure.”

Reliable estimates of the numbers of centenarians who have perished in the pandemic are elusive, primarily because most state and government health agencies tracking deaths lump them into an 85-and-older demographic. That age bracket has seen more deaths than any other, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, the COVID-19 Tracking Project and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But anecdotal evidence, including newspaper and online death notices, suggests that COVID-19 is exacting a grim toll among the estimated 70,000 centenarians in the U.S. In tiny Rhode Island alone, at least eight people aged 100 or older have died, public health officials say.

Carrie Hoza of Northfield, Illinois, lost her 101-year-old grandmother, Norma Bratschi Hoza, to COVID-19 this month.

Born in 1919 to a mother who survived the deadly 1918 influenza pandemic, Bratschi Hoza married her childhood sweetheart, went to business school and helped found the family’s plumbing business. When three neighborhood boys close in age to her own three sons were orphaned, she took them in and raised them as her own.

“She lived a beautiful life, with kindness and goodness in her heart,” said Hoza, 46. “She always believed that hatred was toxic and forgiveness was the best way to live. She was an absolute gem.”

Remarkably, some centenarians have recovered from COVID-19. Against all odds, 103-year-old Ada Zanusso battled back after being hospitalized in the northern Italian town of Lessona, crediting “courage and strength, faith” for her rebound.

You don’t become a century old without some inherent toughness and genetic good fortune. An otherwise healthy 100-something, experts say, may be more likely to recover than someone who’s 60 and obese with underlying health issues.

But many of the very oldest of us are faring poorly in the pandemic. People who survived world wars, polio, the Great Depression and the Holocaust aren’t beating this.

“They’re people who are rock-solid citizens,” said Neenah Ellis, a former National Public Radio producer in Yellow Springs, Ohio, who interviewed many for her bestselling book, “If I Live to Be 100: Lessons from the Centenarians.”


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