New Delhi: At a time when there are over 8 million confirmed cases of Coronavirus and more than 4,36,000 deaths have taken place globally, more than a hundred attempts at developing vaccines are going on all over the world. Even if a handful of these attempts are successful, we should have one or two billion doses of successful vaccines within a few months. Let’s take a quick look at who is nearing the finish line!
The Indian Express reports that Moderna and Sinovac Biotech now appear to be leading in the race to develop the COVID vaccines the whole world is waiting for.
mRNA-1273 vaccine by Moderna Inc of the US, jointly developed with the US National Institutes of Health, enters late-stage testing in July for about 30,000 persons, it is known to protect against the novel coronavirus with a single dose. The company is setting up a production capacity of 500 million doses per year, a capacity it plans to increase to 1 billion doses by next year in collaboration with Lonza, a Swiss manufacturer with manufacturing facilities in the US, South Asia, and several European nations.
CoronaVac vaccine: Sinovac Biotech of China has reached an agreement with Instituto Butantan of Brazil to manufacture in Brazil this Chinese vaccine they are developing once it gets approved. This vaccine has proved itself capable of achieving an immune response in humans – at least 90% of persons who received the dose had developed neutralising antibodies within 14 days of administration of the vaccine dose.
AZD1222 jointly developed by AstraZeneca of UK and Oxford University is now undergoing Phase II trials with 10,000 volunteers. Final Stage trials are to be held Brazil starting next month. Inclusive Vaccines Alliance, an alliance of Germany, France, Italy and the Netherlands will jointly manufacture the AZD1222 vaccine with AstraZeneca. Having already started manufacture after obtaining initial approvals, AstraZeneca hopes to roll out 2 billion doses of the single-dose vaccine by the last quarter of this year. Out of this 400 million doses are earmarked for the US and 100 million doses for the UK population.
Johnson & Johnson, meanwhile has received approval to create enough capacity to prepare 1 billion doses of its recombinant Ad26.COV2-S vaccine during 2021 which should qualify its approval process later this year.
Other companies in the effort to develop a working vaccine include Pfizer, BioNtech, Merck, Sanofi and China’s CanSino Biologics.
While all the vaccines listed above and the others yet to come would provide substantial protection, a few cautions need to be borne in mind.
1. Without any doubt about the efficacy or the safety of the vaccine, the probability does exist that vaccines initially supplied in the market may suffer from some limitations that can be removed only after observing the response in patients as seen in actual field conditions and then working on the observed findings.
2. Administration of the vaccine or any other technological solution is not an end in itself, and all normal communicable disease management protocols will have to be respected says Healthline.com based in San Francisco USA. These would include social distancing, self-isolation, contact tracing, hygiene management like using antiseptics on domestic and workplace surfaces frequently touched, regular hand washing in soap and water, and use of at least the most basic PPE like gloves and mask when outdoors. These will have to be followed as a way of life at least for some time.
On the plus side, the WHO based in Geneva has repeatedly been assuring all member nations that The World Health Organisation has a complete infrastructure in place for the past several years to ensure a need-based distribution of the vaccines once they are available, thanks to child vaccination programs (as for measles, BCG, polio etc.), and epidemic management protocols in place in several parts of the world for the treatment and control of Ebola, SARS-I, H1N1, HIV, Cholera, Dengue, and the Nipah virus epidemics that have made their appearance time and again in the recent past.