How Far Along Are We In Finding A Vaccine For COVID-19?

How Far Along Are We In Finding A Vaccine For COVID-19?

The WHO declared COVID-19 as global pandemic on March 11, 2020. As of June 12, 7,609,730 are reportedly infected with the virus. The availability of a safe and effective vaccine for COVID-19 is indispensable to the control of the pandemic. The vaccine is a biological preparation that provides active acquired immunity to a particular infectious disease. Over 120 vaccines have been proposed across the world for COVID-19 prevention.

At the same time, there are many challenges and much efforts are needed to find out an effective vaccine and then making it on a huge scale to provide it to the billions of people who are in desolation due to this deadly pandemic .” It is essential that we evaluate as many vaccines as possible as we cannot predict how many will turn out to be viable”, said WHO.

WHO Solidarity Trial, Accelerating a Safe and Effective COVID-19 Vaccine

This is an unprecedented and extraordinary research undertaking. WHO is putting in tremendous efforts to establish communication and collaboration across the research community. The 4 critical elements of WHO global R&D efforts are,

  1. Harnessing a broad global coalition to develop and evaluate candidate vaccines as quickly and safely as possible
  2. Mapping candidate vaccines and their progress across the world
  3. Defining the desired characteristics of safe and effective vaccines to combat the pandemic.
  4. Coordinating clinical trials across the world – giving humanity the best chance of safe and effective vaccines for all

Draft Landscape of COVID-19 Candidate Vaccines

WHO shared the draft landscape of COVID-19 candidate vaccines on 15th May 2020. In which 8 candidate vaccines in clinical evaluation and 110 candidate vaccines for preclinical evaluation were enlisted. In this draft WHO  mentioned the target virus SARS-CoV2, Current stage of clinical evaluation/regulatory status of vaccine, developing company and a platform like DNA, RNA, attenuated virus or protein along with other non-corona viruses for whom those platforms are already used. This draft is very comprehensive and gives an idea about how close we are in finding a vaccine for COVID-19.

Efforts in Various Countries to Develop a COVID-19 Vaccine

  • Recently, US immunotherapy company Inovio Pharmaceuticals Inc. said its experimental vaccine to prevent coronavirus infection was shown to produce protective antibodies and immune system responses in mice and guinea pigs. That vaccine and INO-4800 are made using newer technology that focuses on specific genes on the outer “spike” portion of the virus. Another vaccine is mRNA-1273 developed by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and Moderna, Inc.
  • As of March 2020, in China 2019-nCoV vaccines one that entered phase I clinical trials is named as Ad5-nCoV developed by the Chinese Institute of Biotechnology of the Academy of Military Medical Sciences and Tianjin Cansino Biotechnology Inc.
  • Although the Oxford vaccine, called “ChAdOx1 nCoV-19,” has not yet been proven to protect against COVID-19 infection and there are reports of it being so not effective, Serum Institute in India, decided to start manufacturing after it showed promise in the pre-clinical phase and progressed to human trials.
  • In Germany too, many companies are busy in developing an effective vaccine.
  • In the Philippines and many other countries and pharmaceutical companies are in a race to develop a vaccine.
  • Meanwhile, in Pakistan, the Special Assistant to Prime Minister (SAPM) on Health, Zafar Mirza on Saturday clarified that there is currently no coronavirus vaccine in Pakistan and neither is there any work ongoing for its development. But offers were made by Chinese and Japanese pharmaceutical companies to conduct clinical trials for the vaccine. The government is cogitating on these offers.

Of all, Moderna recently shared the outcome of its human trial which indicated that eight volunteers — four each from the 25-microgram dose and 100-microgram dose arms — developed neutralizing antibodies at levels almost same as that developed by patients who recovered from coronavirus but since the company disclosed information about only 8 out of 45 subjects, the scientists raised the question and they said the company has yet to release significant data to support its claim that its drug is effective, furthermore the age group of subjects is also an important factor to look into before going to any conclusion.

Challenges

Although the rapid development of a vaccine is underway, there are still many challenges including,

  1. influence of antigenic variation (mutations in the virus genome may affect the efficacy of vaccine)
  2. the protective immune response of the host
  3. the manufacturing process of the new vaccine on such a large scale
  4. Will the vaccine be made available to all?
  5. Efficacy of vaccine in people of different geographical distribution
  6. Making an effective vaccine for the elderly because the aged immune system does not respond well to the immunization
  7. Prioritizing who would get inoculated first as there will be initially limited supply
  8. World politics and diplomacy may effect vaccine distribution

Although it is unanimous that development of an effective vaccine is urgent, challenges exist in both research and development as well as policies aiming to establish preparatory steps in the development and use of a vaccine against Corona Virus.

The world will need 7 billion vaccine doses to end COVID-19 pandemic.

Bill Gates

Would the Vaccine be Made Available to All?

WHO and UNO aim at making the COVID-19 vaccine available to all. The Chinese Government has already made it clear that if they succeed in making a vaccine, it will be made available to all. But still there is fear and also indications that COVID-19 vaccine may be used for political goals by some nations. USA and China are both working hard to find a vaccine. It appears that China wants to get there first. It sees the race as a matter of national pride. At the same time, US president declared that “You really could say that nobody’s seen anything like we’re doing, whether it’s ventilators or testing. Nobody’s seen anything like we’re doing now within our country since the World War-II.” In their quest for power, these two countries may end up changing the world’s political affairs and deciding who would get the vaccine first.

As per history, during the 2002-2003 SARS outbreak, it took about 20 months for a vaccine to be ready for testing in people. But now new developments have been made in this field so we can hope for the rapid development of a vaccine.
It has been predicted that a Vaccine may be available till the end of 2020 by US president but according to Dale Fisher, chair of the World Health Organization (WHO) Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network., a vaccine for Covid-19 will not be ready until the end of next year, Fisher also said President Donald Trump’s comments that he was confident a coronavirus vaccine would be developed by the end of 2020 — were “a bit premature.”

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Saira Naz

Post by: Saira Naz

Saira is a third year student at King Edward Medical University, Lahore. She has interests in research and content writing.
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