Oct. 1, 2021 – When M. (who requested that her full name not be used to protect her identity) got the shot this Tuesday, she became just the sixth person to receive it.

“It’s very powerful now that I think about it,” she said of participating in the trial, just a few hours after getting the vaccine. 

The trial — the first to test the safety and potential effectiveness of an opioid vaccine in humans — is being led by Sandra Comer, a professor of neurobiology in the department of psychiatry at Columbia University’s Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, and Marco Pravetoni, of the University of Minnesota Medical School. 

All of the participants, including M., are in active phases of addiction and are being housed at Columbia or another clinic for 10 weeks during the study. That’s because researchers must give the participants nonlethal doses of opioids, including heroin, after the experimental vaccine to see how it works.