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Swine Flu Trials Begin In Md.

Volunteers in swine flu clinical trials in Baltimore began getting their first vaccines on Monday.
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Volunteers in swine flu clinical trials in Baltimore began getting their first vaccines on Monday.

About 250 people are participating in the trials designed to test the effectiveness and safety of a new vaccine being developed to protect against the swine influenza virus.

Study leaders told 11 News the demand to participate was so high that they had to hold a lottery to pick who would take part.

Emily Cooke said she jumped at the chance to serve on the front line in the fight against the pandemic.

"I never worry about seasonal flu, but the swine flu seems a little bit scarier and unpredictable because it seems to strike younger people -- people my age that seem to be relatively healthy," she said.

The nation's first swine flu vaccine study began Monday at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. The school is the lead center for national trials.

Attorney Arthur Fergenson was one of 47 healthy adults who rolled up their sleeves on the first day.

"Anything that we can do individually to stop the spread of this flu now would be an advantage," Fergenson said.

Participants got one shot Tuesday and will get a second in three weeks as researchers try to figure out if the vaccine is safe, and if so, how many doses will protect against the virus.

"Basically, we will come away from this in each age group understanding how much vaccine, how many doses and how quickly they can develop immunity," said Dr. Karen Kotloff, a lead investigator in the study.

There are risks involved, but Fergenson said he isn't worried. He participated in polio vaccine trials as a child.

"I don't feel there is any risk at all. The risk is not doing this," he said.

What happens at the trials will help determine if and when the general public will be immunized. Maryland health officials are watching the trials closely.

"Once the federal government approves it and licenses it for use, our job is to get that out to Marylanders all over the state," said Health Department Secretary Fran Phillips.

"The vaccine does change the way people are being treated, and if it does save hundreds of thousands of lives all over the world, I can say, 'Hey, I was a part of that,'" Cooke said.

Study officials said they will start testing senior citizens on Wednesday, and after they get about two weeks of safety data under their belts, they'll then try it on children.

The University of Maryland is one of eight trial sites across the country. Nationwide, 2,400 volunteers have enrolled in three different studies looking at the swine flu vaccine.

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