The medical industry has started working at a pace it has never one before, with an expected vaccine to come out as early as October of 2020. Lucky for all the people out there who had been waiting to get out of their homes. For many, it was more than merely socializing, as their livelihoods were at stake. Businesses had started laying off workers, therefore forcing people to even work in environments that exposed them to the virus. Since herd immunity was not entirely achievable, uncertainty got at its peak, leaving no one safe. Amongst the midst of all those horrifying news, the reports coming in from the biopharma industry always happened to be somewhat satisfying. The biopharma industry was set to bring forth a vaccine for the novel virus in a time frame which was historically never achieved. To look further into all the possible candidate vaccines that have been showing promising results, tag along and enjoy!
A Need-for-Speed for Vaccines
If you look back at the time taken for vaccines to be created for other diseases, polio, or HIV for instance, you will get to notice that it might take up to a full decade for a vaccine to complete all of its trials and enter into the markets. But in the case of COVID-19, right after the outbreak in Wuhan in late 2019, exactly 166 vaccine candidates have started working on producing successful shots for patients, as stated by the WHO. And the pace they are trying to achieve that is remarkable. One of the reasons which now metaphorically mandates a quick creation of a vaccine is the fact that there is no herd immunity attainable for a long time, something which was unknown back then.
The big pharma corporations have their interests tied to such a discovery, where any company that succeeds in being the first one to provide the vaccination would receive the spotlight by all the stakeholders from around the world. Probable candidates have even started receiving early orders, for example, the United States’ government paid $1.9 Billion to Pfizer for the shots once they are completed. Other companies like Moderna have come out publicly claiming that they aim to attain a profit out of their discovery and that they would not provide the vaccination at a price that merely equals their cost. Such a business decision could end up awarding pharma companies with billions in revenues, therefore explaining why everyone seems to be so excited to create a vaccine. And then there is a humanitarian motive behind it too.
The best ones so far
Overall, five vaccine candidates have been said to be showing the most promising results. Though a vaccine’s credibility cannot be entirely certified until it has passed the Phase III trials, its performance in the first two phases is what enables it to move further into the third phase. Some of the promising vaccinations have already entered the third phase, where lab testing and testing on animals has moved to voluntary vaccinations by a large group of people. The six most promising vaccines are of University of Oxford/AstraZeneca, Sinovac Biotech, Moderna/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, CanSino Biologics/Beijing Institute of Biotechnology, Sinopharm, and, Pfizer/BioNTech/Fosun Pharmaceutical. All six of these have entered the Phase three trials, signaling the fact that their release to the public might be imminent. Additionally, a point to note is that three of the six most promising vaccine candidates are from China, the country where this virus originated.
The Oxford Vaccine
Coming up first is the vaccine commonly referred to as the Oxford vaccine. It has been created from a weakened type of cold flu that normally infects chimps, but the scientists of this collaboration altered the vaccine to recognize the spike proteins the coronavirus uses to attacks humans, according to a Live Science Report. Initially, the vaccine has shown near-perfect results, with the only side effects being mild muscle pains and some chills. The vaccine started getting tested on humans in April, and it has then moved through the stages. Phase three trials of this vaccine, which have already begun, include testing on almost 5000 people in Brazil, some 10,000 people in the UK, and nearly 30,000 people in the U.S, as reported by The New York Times. The U.S government announced that it would be paying the collaboration around $1.2 Billion to accelerate the speed of the process.
Next, is the vaccine being created by Moderna and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which according to a Live Science report, happened to be the first vaccine to have tested people in the U.S. Moderna’s vaccine uses a technology never used before in any other vaccine. It relies on Messenger RNA, or mRNA in short, contrary to all the other vaccines ever created that relied on inactive or weakened viruses. This method relies on the cell to create a viral protein to trigger an immune response when exposed to the coronavirus, as explained by National Geographic.
The Chinese Trio
The three vaccines being created in China are by Sinovac Biotech, Sinopharm, and CanSino Biologics in collaboration with the Beijing Institute of Biotechnology. Based on an extensive report by Live Science, Sinovac has performed human trials in the Jiangsu province within China, while Sinopharm is taking their trials to Abu Dhabi – the capital of UAE, and CanSino has conducted trials in Wuhan but is planning on moving to test on people outside of China.
Last but not the least, the candidate being brought forth by Pfizer in collaboration with the German biopharma company is planning a regulatory review in October. The vaccine has been commissioned by both the governments of the U.K and the U.S to provide them large batches of vaccines as early as they could, in return of large endowments by those countries, as pointed out in the New York Times.
With all that being said, almost all of the nations, especially the wealthier ones have been eying on these vaccines to pass-through the clinical trials so that they could start fully reopening their economies. But nothing could be done until the regulatory reviews are completed, and that might take some time. Needless to say, the pace at which the work is being done is quite impressive, and the results have been very promising.