SEATTLE (AP) — U.S. researchers gave the first shots in a first test of an experimental coronavirus vaccine Monday, leading off a worldwide hunt for protection even as the pandemic surges.

With careful jabs in the arms of four healthy volunteers, scientists at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Research Institute in Seattle began an anxiously awaited first-stage study of a potential COVID-19 vaccine developed in record time after the new virus exploded out of China and fanned out across the globe.

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“We’re team coronavirus now,” Kaiser Permanente study leader Dr. Lisa Jackson said on the eve of the experiment. “Everyone wants to do what they can in this emergency.”

Three of the study participants said the shots were no more painful than an ordinary season flu vaccine.

Some will get higher dosages than others to test how strong the dose should be. They will be checked for side effects and have their blood tested to determine whether the vaccine is revving up their immune systems.

Last week, Kaiser piloted two drive through testing sites in Redwood City, California and elsewhere in the Bay Area.

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The testing was for Kaiser patients only.

Kaiser spokeswoman Kerri Leedy would not say where these drive-up stations are operating, because they are not open to the public. This is a pilot program currently being tested at Kaiser’s Northern California medical centers.

“We expect all our medical centers to eventually offer some form of alternative testing sites,” Leedy said.

Health authorities have said that a coronavirus vaccine would not be available for several months.

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