The race for the Covid-19 vaccine is advancing at an unprecedented rate. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that there are 30 vaccine projects that are already being tested in clinical trials. Y 139 more that continue to be studied in laboratories. Among the more advanced options are the six vaccine candidates that, today, are already being tested in the step 3 Of the investigation; when injections are tested on a large scale. This last link in the investigation is a true litmus test for evaluate safety and effectiveness of these preparations. Only if both criteria are met is the green light from the health authorities, who finally authorize the approval of the preparation.
For now, these are the more advanced vaccines in the process of clinical trials, and that right now they are being tested on a large scale.
The oxford vaccine, manufactured by the pharmaceutical AstraZeneca, presented in July the results of the first phases of its investigation; in which it was shown that, in a test in just over a thousand patients, the compound is safe and effective (especially with the two-dose injection). Once this obstacle was overcome, the company planned to launch a phase 3 with tests on 30,000 more volunteers, recruited from the United Kingdom, Brazil and South Africa. The vaccine’s developers say that, if approved, it will be able to produce up to two billion doses. The first could be delivered later this year. Although it is possible that these deadlines are modified, since on September 9 AstraZeneca has communicated that The drug study has been paused due to an adverse reaction detected in one of the clinical trial participants.
The Moderna vaccine published its first “successes” in mid-May, through a press release that, in just one day, managed to increase the company’s shares by 26%. In July, the preliminary scientific report arrived, confirming that tests carried out on 45 people showed that the injection managed to develop an antibody level similar to that found in patients who have overcome covid-19. The pharmaceutical company has announced that this coming Monday, July 27, phase three of its clinical trials will begin, where the compound will be tested in 30,000 more volunteers.
The BioNTech and Pfizer vaccine It has been tested so far on 45 German patients and 360 more Americans, and while it waits to begin testing on the last 30,000 phase 3 volunteers, the United States has already purchased 100 million doses worth nearly two billion dollars. The company says that, if it achieves good results in its trials and receives approval from the health authorities, by the end of this year it will produce up to 1.3 billion doses of its vaccines.
The Sinovach vaccine, a biopharmaceutical company based in Beijing (China), has already been tested in 744 patients in the provinces of Jiangsu and Hebei during the months of April and May. In these first tests of the immunization, created from an inactivated virus, it was found that the preparation produced an immune response without serious adverse results. Its study has been extended, already in phase 3, in Brazil, where it is expected to test it in 8,870 participants starting this July. Preliminary results are expected for the month of September. The pharmaceutical company has already committed to manufacturing 100 million doses per year.
The Sinopharm vaccine and the Wuhan Biological Products Institute was tested on 1,120 Henan province patients in April, with positive results. And now, already in phase 3, it plans to supply 15,000 more people. Sinopharm is also developing another vaccine with the Beijing Institute of Biological Products, which is also in an advanced stage of research. The company states that it has already reached an agreement with the United Arab Emirates to carry out the following phases of clinical trials there, but, at this time, it has not clarified which vaccine it is going to continue with. Abu Dhabi’s health minister was the first to volunteer for these tests.
Likewise, Imperial College London, Osaka University, the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and companies like Johnson & Johnson also have their projects underway, although they are still stuck in the early stages of research. Among the projects that are being studied in the laboratories, the Spanish experimental vaccines of the National Biotechnology Center and from IDIBAPS-Hospital Clinic.
The unofficial race for the vaccine
But beyond these six projects, the most advanced so far in the research process, there are also other names that ring in the race. Russia claims to have found the first vaccine of the world against covid-19, baptized as Sputnik V. China it also takes a step forward and announces that it has registered the vaccine developed by the CanSino company, a compound that the Chinese government has approved for “emergency use” in state employees and the armed forces. Everything indicates that both projects have taken off before completing the evaluation of clinical trials, in which the effectiveness and safety of the product are tested.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has ruled on these projects, recalling that, before giving the go-ahead to these compounds, a “rigorous review and evaluation of all required safety and efficacy data“Likewise, the international scientific community has been puzzled by the launch of vaccines that have not yet been tested on a large scale.
When will the first vaccines arrive?
Under normal circumstances, developing a vaccine it usually takes an average of 10 years. But now, in the midst of a global health crisis, research is advancing at a pace never seen before. Millions have been invested in these projects. The scientific community has turned to these clinical studies. And thousands of citizens around the world have volunteered for these investigations. In April it was estimated that the first vaccines would take between 12 and 18 months to arrive. But now this estimate is not so clear.
There are already several companies that have committed to supply the first doses of their vaccines between October and December of this year. If the clinical trials come to fruition, of course. Then it remains to be seen how these preparations will be manufactured and distributed on a large scale. It is estimated that some 4,000 million doses so that 50% of the population can be vaccinated. If two injections were required to achieve a robust immunization, this figure would also be doubled. But, given that not even in the most optimistic of scenarios would such a quantity be achieved in such a short time, the question is: Who should get vaccinated first?
The answer is not so clear. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently convened a group of experts to address this issue. In this forum, some argued that the first to receive the vaccine should be the workers who are more exposed to possible infections so that, once protected, they can help to reactivate the economy. And others argued that it would be fairer to prioritize the immunization of vulnerable groups, those who are more likely to suffer the serious consequences of the virus. But even within these two extremes there are doubts.
Who should be the first to get vaccinated?
The World Health Organization (WHO) proposes the following “strategic allocation”. The first to receive it would be the health professionals. Following, the adults over 65. Then the adults with risk diseases such as cardiovascular problems, cancer, diabetes, obesity, or chronic respiratory disorders. These three groups would keep the first 4,000 million doses (taking into account that each person may need two and a waste rate of 15%). And, from there, vaccines could be provided for the rest of the population.
The distribution of vaccines, estimates the entity, will also be regulated according to the “epidemiological situation of each country.” In this sense, the United Nations also claims that, given the global nature of the pandemic, all countries should receive an initial supply. The Global Alliance for Immunization (GAVI) now has raised $ 2 billion so that, in the future, these drugs can reach where they are needed.