Wanted: A Vaccine for Covid-19
The novel coronavirus disease has globally, as of 10:23am CEST, 11 September 2020, led to 27,973,127 confirmed cases, including 905,426 deaths, as reported to the World Health Organization. In terms of region, the Americas are leading the count followed by South-east Asia and Europe. The Americas accounted for over 51% of active cases with 14,447,680 cases. India, in the last week, surpassed Brazil to reach the second spot. The country’s caseload has reached over 4 million, with over 1,000 deaths per day in the last week. Such scenario has led to dire need for an effective vaccine against the disease.
As of September 2020, there were 321 vaccine candidates in development, which accounted for a 2.5X increase since April 2020. 22 vaccines are in small-scale safety trials (Phase 1); 25 are in expanded safety trials (Phase 2); 25 are in large-scale efficacy trials (Phase 3); and 4 vaccines are in Phase 4. However, no candidate has completed clinical trials to prove its safety and efficacy. Recently, one of the most promising candidate’s last stage trial was paused over adverse-side effects. The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine candidate, a modified chimp adenovirus vector (chadox1), which was under phase III clinical trial in India, led to an unexplained illness in a study participant. The Serum Institute of India, the Indian company that is conducting the clinical trial, was served a notice from Drugs Regulator General of India questioning the continuity of the trials and failing to send a detailed report about the patient in the U.S. The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine candidate is not the only candidate under clinical trial. Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin, developed in partnership with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) – National Institute of Virology (NIV), completed phase 1 and will begin phase 2 clinical trials and is likely to be launched in early 2021. Zydus Cadila has completed a phase 1 clinical trial of its plasmid DNA COVID-19 vaccine ZyCoV-D and is expected to begin phase 2 study. In China, the government has approved the trials of a nasal spray vaccine, which is expected to start Phase I clinical trials in November.
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Several large pharmaceutical companies have come forward to collaborate in their effort to develop a vaccine against Covid-19. In April 2020, Sanofi collaborated with GSK to develop an adjuvanted vaccine for COVID-19. Major organizations are focused on fair availability of the vaccines that complete clinical trials to prove its safety and efficacy. The World Health Organization and Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, a foundation focused on financing R&D of vaccines against emerging infectious diseases, is evaluating distribution of the eventual vaccines.
In the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration’ stated that manufacturers have to meet a higher standard of efficacy than what would normally be required for such clearance ion order to get emergency authorization of a Covid-19 vaccine. Turkey is yet to decide whether to conduct the Phase III testing of Russia’s coronavirus vaccine Sputnik V. The race for a vaccine, although witnessing mixed laps, is far from over.
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