With the 2nd wave in Europe, the coronavirus is continuing to put world economies in a major crisis. From high medical expenditure to loss of hours in education and manufacturing, to significant threat to human life, the situation has been the worse ever seen in this millennium. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), on 21 October 2020, there are 41,042,920 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 1,129,591 deaths globally. Along with the world’s population, 1.3 billion Indians now eagerly await the COVID-19 vaccine. Will the Astra Zeneca-Oxford vaccine currently in the forefront win the race? Many have started to step out of their homes attending offices or even crowding local markets for festival shopping. But remember India, we still remain a hotspot for the coronavirus – it’s foolish to think ‘I am Safe’. Until we have the COVID-19 vaccine in 2020/2021, a huge risk remains.
Why is a coronavirus vaccine important?
Vaccines save millions of lives each year from disease. They prepare the body’s immune system to recognize and fight off the virus and bacteria targeted and prevent illness.
Currently, there are vaccines that prevent more than 20 life-threatening diseases, but sadly none could help to restrain the new virus, known officially as Sars-CoV-2, since it first emerged in December 2019. As researchers discovered the COVID-19 is a vaccine-preventable disease, more than 100 COVID-19 vaccines are under development, with around 40 already in the human trial phase. Only when a safe and effective vaccine is found, it would allow lockdowns to be lifted, social distancing to be relaxed and restore normalcy in the world.
Coronavirus treatment: Vaccines in the pipeline for COVID-19
The widespread outbreak called COVID-19 originating in the Chinese city Wuhan has not just endangered thousands of lives but taken as many. The pandemic has now necessitated the development of a coronavirus vaccine to save lives. The world’s biotech industry, pharmaceutical companies and research organisations around the world are in a race to find the cure.
Stages of vaccines in pipeline for COVID-19
- Early development: 240 vaccines
- Clinical Trials: 40 vaccines
- Human trials: 9 vaccines
The vaccines in Phase III clinical trials
- AstraZeneca/Oxford University
- Pfizer/BioNTech/Fosun Pharma
- Russian vaccine, developed by Gamaleya Institute in Moscow
- Sinovac, China
(As on October 21; source: WHO Coronavirus vaccine landscape of October 19, 2020)
COVID-19 vaccines in the forefront
There are more than 240 vaccines in different stages of production around the world. Of these 27 have reached the human trials. In India, several trials, including Covaxin, ZyCov-DZYCOV, SputnikV have expedited their trials to make way for an earlier than estimated vaccine launch. These vaccines have shown a success rate of 50% but require a safety rate of over 65% to be administered to the general public.
Here are some of the frontrunners in the race to develop the coronavirus vaccine in India.
Astra Zeneca-Oxford vaccine
The company considered one of the frontrunners in the global rush to develop a coronavirus vaccine is currently undergoing Phase III trials in India and UK and results are expected around November-December 2020. Serum Institute of India has partnered with AstraZeneca for manufacturing the Oxford Covid-19 vaccine in India. The company has already signed multiple supply-and-manufacture deals for more than 3 billion doses globally.
13,194-volunteers took the Moderna and Vaccine Research Center vaccine in July. The company has agreed to supply 100 million doses of the vaccine to the U.S. government 100 million doses for around USD 1.5 billion. Till date Moderna has never made a vaccine that has been successfully approved for any disease.
The first vaccine against COVID-19, has been registered by The Gamaleya National Center of Epidemiology and Microbiology, Russia on August 11, 2020. President Vladimir Putin has announced that one of his daughters has been vaccinated with it.
Zydus Cadila Ltd is in the Phase II of the human clinical trials. The Gujarat-based pharma giant is making the second indigenous vaccine and is currently testing the antidote on volunteers
India’s indigenous coronavirus vaccine, Covaxin, is being developed by Bharat Biotech, Bangalore. It has completed the Phase I trial, soon to complete Phase II trials and now seeking DCGI’s nod for conducting Phase III trials.
INO-4800 by Inovio Pharmaceuticals is the only nucleic-acid based vaccine that is stable at room temperature for more than a year and does not require to be frozen in transport or storage, which is a significant plus when it comes to transporting the vaccine to rural areas for mass immunizations. Currently it is in Phase I, II trials.
The race to save lives has begun but none of the above companies has yet confirmed the date when the vaccine will be safe to administer and easily available for all. Whether end 2020 or early-mid 2021, only time will tell. Till then let’s keep ourselves safe.