The increase in the number of coronavirus cases recorded daily, accelerated the search for a vaccine. The virus took its toll on the world’s economy. This has resulted in increased inflation rates, unemployment, and a host of social vices emanating from lockdown policies. According to Worldometer, COVID-19 has spread to 213 countries and territories around the world. The number of confirmed cases reported are a total of 22,052,773 and counting.
India, one of the countries topping the charts in the number of confirmed cases experienced another spike recently. As reported by The Indian Express, lockdown has been extended till September 6th due to reports of 941 deaths in 24 hours. Also take note that the country has been reporting over 60,000 daily cases since August 7th.
Likewise, the New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, delayed the general election by four weeks until October 17th. This was attributed to the worsened situation and the nation’s first community viral outbreak after three months.
Worldometer has the toll of recorded deaths standing at 777,477 deaths and counting. There is no telling that the world needs a vaccine, and we need it fast. But, what effort has been put into developing one so far. We have heard the news of different vaccines, by different countries, yet, nothing. Of course, we know there are several stages of testing that needs to be done before a vaccine can be licensed. But, for how long do we have to wait.
To answer this question, we wanted to see the progress we have made so far. What vaccines have been made? Why don’t we have one certified already? So many questions, but we can only keep our fingers crossed.
Vaccine Development Stages
1. Pre-Clinical Testing: Scientists give the prepared vaccine to animals such as monkeys and mice to test if it triggers an immune response.
2. Phase 1 [Safety Trials]: In this stage, scientists give the vaccine to a small number of humans to confirm that it indeed stimulates the immune system. The safety of the vaccine as well as the dosage requirements are tested too.
3. Phase 2 [Expanded Trials]: Scientists give the vaccine to hundreds of volunteers split into age groups, such as children and adults. This is to study how these classes of people react to the vaccines.
4. Phase 3 [Efficacy Trials]: Scientists give the vaccine to thousands of people to see how many get infected as compared to volunteers who were administered a placebo. This phase will determine if the vaccine indeed protects humans against a virus and reveal all the side effects from its use.
4. Approval Phase: Drug use regulators review the results of the trials to determine the vaccine’s approval. Once approved, researchers are then responsible for monitoring the usage and efficiency of the vaccine. In the case of a pandemic, emergency use authorization may be given to a developed vaccine before formal approval.
5. Combined Phases: It involves the combination of phases to help to accelerate the development of a vaccine. Some coronavirus vaccines are currently in Phase 1/2 trials. These vaccines are being tested for the first time on hundreds of volunteers.
The Rush for the Russian Vaccine
Russia is the world’s fourth most infected country with reported cases of more than 900,000. Amid skepticisms about effectiveness and safety, the Russian vaccine after passing the first human stage was regarded as the world’s first approved vaccine against COVID-19. According to Bloomberg, the vaccine is being developed by Russian Direct Investment Fund and Russia’s Gamaleya Institute.
As reported by The Indian Express, Phase 3 human trials are set to begin by the end of the month. Here, tens of thousands will be vaccinated. Although over a billion vaccine requests have been made to Russia by as many as 20 countries, there is still a great deal of skepticism with the vaccine. According to a survey reported by the RBC News website, 52 percent of doctors said they won’t administer the vaccine. 66 percent opined that insufficient data on the virus proved its inefficiency while 48 percent said it was developed too quickly. The Moscow times report that only 24.5 percent are ready to get vaccinated.
Reuters reports have it that the first batch of the vaccine has been developed and will be rolled out at the end of the month. This timeline is earlier, as against previous announcements of September with mass vaccination in October. However, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the vaccine ‘Sputnik V’ worked quite effectively and formed stable immunity against the virus.
Other Vaccines in the Race
All around the world, researchers are developing more than 165 vaccines against the coronavirus, of which 31 are in human trials. Although vaccines take years of research and testing before getting into hospitals, there are accelerated steps to develop a safe and effective anti-COVID vaccine.
According to The New York Times, the first vaccine trials in humans started in March. And although some trials will fail, others may eventually succeed in stimulating the immune system to produce effective antibodies to combat the virus. Reports by The New York Times presents vaccines that have reached the human trials, alongside promising vaccines that are still being tested.
PHASE 3 VACCINES
- CanSino Biologics & Academy of Military Medical Sciences – In July, phase 2 trials reportedly demonstrated strong immune response. Following this, the Chinese military approved the vaccine as a “specially needed drug.” On August 9th, the commencement of Phase 3 trials in Saudi Arabia was announced.
- Moderna & National Institutes of Health – In March, the company in collaboration with the National Institute of Health put the first Covid-19 vaccine yielding promising results. On July 27th, they launched a phase 3 trial enrolling 30,000 healthy people from 89 sites around the US.
- The Wuhan Institute of Biological Products – The Phase 1/2 trials of this vaccine showed that it produced antibodies in volunteers although some experienced other side effects. In July, the Phase 3 trial was launched in the United Arab Emirates.
- Sinopharm – Sinopharm is in Phase 3 trials in the United Arab Emirates. 5,000 people are receiving the Wuhan Institute version of the vaccine, while 5,000 others are being given the Beijing Institute version.
- Sinovac Biotech – Completed phase 1/2 in June. Produced immune response in 743 volunteers with no severe adverse effects. A Phase 3 trial was launched in July.
- Bacillus Calmette-Guerin – This vaccine was developed in the early 1900s to protect against tuberculosis. The Murdoch Children’s Research Institute is conducting a Phase 3 trial in Australia to see if the vaccine partially protects against Covid-19.
PHASE 2 & PHASE 3 VACCINES (Combined Phases)
- BioNTech, Pfizer & Fosun Pharma – The collaborations of these companies developed an mRNA vaccine. In May, Phase 1/2 trial was launched. The volunteers produced antibodies against the virus, though, some experienced side effects. On July 27, the launch of a Phase 2/3 trial with 30,000 volunteers was announced.
- AstraZeneca & University of Oxford – The Phase 1/2 trials showed that the vaccine caused no severe side effects and raised antibodies against the virus. The vaccine is now in Phase 2/3 trials in England and India, as well as Phase 3 trials in Brazil and South Africa. AstraZeneca stated that they might be able to start delivering the vaccines as early as October.
PHASE 2 VACCINES
- Zydus Cadila – Zydus Cadila began testing a DNA-based vaccine in July. A Phase 2 trial was launched on August 6th.
- CureVac – In June, the company launched a Phase 1 trial for its vaccine and in August, registered a Phase 2 trial.
- Anhui Zhifei Longcom & Institute of Medical Biology at the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences – In July, the company began Phase 2 trials for its vaccine. The company is part of Chongqing Zhifei Biological Products and is in partnership with the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences.
PHASE 1 PHASE 2 VACCINES (Combined Phases)
- Imperial College & Morning side – Phase 1/2 trials began on June 15th. By the end of the year, the effectiveness of the vaccine will be measured.
- AnGes, Osaka University, Takara Bio – On June 30th, Phase 1 trials started on a DNA-based vaccine, developed in partnership with Osaka University and Takara Bio.
- Arcturus & Duke-NUS Medical School – The design of the molecules in the vaccine showed strong immune responses in animal experiments. In August, a Phase 1/2 trial was launched at Singapore General Hospital.
- Johnson & Johnson, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center – The vaccine produced by these companies have provided protection in experiments on monkeys. The Phase 1/2 trials were launched in July and Phase 3 trials are due in September.
- Bharat Biotech – The company launched Phase 1/2 trials in July. The C.E.O. of Bharat told reporters it would be available no sooner than early 2021.
- Novavax – On August 4th, Novavax announced hopeful results from two initial studies in monkeys and humans. On August 17, they launched a Phase 2 trial in South Africa on 2,900 people. Largely, Phase 3 trials start in October.
PHASE 1 VACCINES
- Inovio – In June Inovio announced interim data from a Phase 1 trial on Covid-19. No serious adverse effects were found and immune response was triggered in 34 out of 36 volunteers. Inovio plans to start Phase 2/3 trials by summer.
- Genexine – Genexine started testing the safety of a vaccine in June. They hope to move to Phase 2 trials in the fall.
- Academy of Military Medical Sciences, Suzhou Abogen Biosciences, Walvax Biotechnology – In June, these collaborations announced they would start first safety trials on a mRNA-based vaccine. Earlier studies on monkeys showed protection against the virus as reported.
- Merck, Themis, Institut Pasteur – The vaccine developed uses weakened measles virus to transport genetic material into patients’ cells. In August, Researchers launched a Phase I trial.
- ReiThera, Lazzaro Spallanzani National Institute for Infectious Disease – This collaboration launched a Phase 1 trial at the end of July for a Coronavirus vaccine.
- Vaxine – Vaxine-developed vaccine has successfully completed Phase 1 trials in July with hope to commence Phase 2 trials in September.
- Medicago, GSK, Dynavax – In July, Medicago launched Phase 1 trials for a vaccine in collaboration with drug makers GSK and Dynavax. If the trial goes as planned, Phase 2/3 trials are due in October.
- University of Queensland & CSL – The University launched Phase 1 trials in July. With positive outcomes, CSL hopes to advance late-stage clinical trials and produce tens of millions of doses.
- Kentucky Bioprocessing– After preclinical testing of the vaccine in the spring, registration for Phase 1 trial was scheduled in July.
- Medigen & Dynavax – Taiwan-based vaccine maker registered a Phase 1 trial. This is set to start in September.
- North Korea – On July 18th, North Korea announced that they had started clinical trials for a vaccine. The commission claimed to have tested the vaccine on animals although no data was provided. Since DPR Korea is void of COVID-19 cases, they plan to test the vaccine outside the country. Experts find this highly doubtful.
- Sanofi & Translate Bio – On June 23, the companies announced plans for Phase 1 trials in the fall.
- Massachusetts Eye and Ear & Novartis – Phase 1 trials for this vaccine are set to begin in late 2020.
- Merck & International AIDS Vaccine Initiative – The Company announced in May that it would develop a vaccine. Unlike other vaccines, this could be taken orally.
- Vaxart – Vaxart’s vaccine is also an oral tablet. Phase 1 trials are being prepared for this summer.
- Baylor College of Medicine & Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development – The researchers in these institutes have developed a vaccine that produces antibodies in mice. In August it was licensed, with the potential to make hundreds of millions of doses per year.
- University of Pittsburgh – A vaccine developed by the University of Pittsburgh is a skin patch tipped with 400 tiny needles made of sugar. When placed on the skin, the needles dissolve and deliver virus proteins into the body.
- Sanofi & GSK – In addition to their mRNA vaccine, Sanofi is developing a vaccine based on viral proteins. The companies hope to commence clinical trials in September.
The search for medical intervention to solve the Coronavirus situation has speedily increased since the pandemic started in March 2020. The fact that nations are wavering or speeding up the regulation or paperwork that might take time before the vaccine is made available in clinics is credible. We are hopeful that before the year ends, positive changes will be experienced in the world’s economy and normalcy restored.
Will we be able to find a cure soon? Hopefully, yes.