With the search for a COVID-19 vaccine becoming nothing less than the Holy Grail for scientists, enormous attention and funding focus on developing and mass-producing an injection. The rapid spread of SARS-nCov-2 has led experts to declare that it would continue to spread if we cannot find a vaccine.
In the latest developments, British pharma giant AstraZeneca, which is developing a vaccine in partnership with Oxford University, said it was “on track” to roll out up to two billion doses in September. Meanwhile, the US also said that it had already produced two million vaccine doses that are “ready to go” if they “check out for safety”.
India has pledged $15 million to vaccine alliance GAVI at the Global Vaccine Summit hosted by the UK. Addressing the summit, Prime Minister Modi said, “Our support to Gavi is not only financial. India’s tremendous demand brings down the global price of vaccines.”
COVID-19 vaccines latest updates on the go
British pharma giant AstraZeneca has massed-produced its experimental AZD1222 vaccine, being developed by Oxford University, and plans to roll out up to two billion doses of a Coronavirus vaccine in September.
“So far we’re still on track… we are manufacturing this vaccine right now, and we have to have it ready to use the time we have the results,” AstraZeneca chief executive Pascal Soriot told BBC radio. “Our present assumption is that we will have the data by the end of the summer, by August, so in September we should know whether we have an effective vaccine,” he further said.
AstraZeneca announced this week it had struck agreements with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi, and the Serum Institute of India to double the production capacity of the vaccine to two billion doses. The partnership with the Indian institute — one of the world’s largest vaccine manufacturers — will help supply it to many low- and middle-income countries, AFP reported.
Oxford University began initial trials of its COVID-19 vaccines with hundreds of volunteers in April and is now expanding them to 10,000 participants. Researchers announced this week they would start tests in mid-June in Brazil, the first country outside Britain to take part in the study. The Cambridge-based firm has signed deals to produce 400 million doses for the US and 100 million for the UK if it is successful in human trials.
Meanwhile, a Bloomberg report said AstraZeneca had approached US rival Gilead Sciences about a merger to form one of the world’s largest drug companies. Such a deal would unite two of the drug makers at the forefront of the industry’s efforts to fight the new Coronavirus.
Vaccine research at different places
UQ researcher Paul Young said it would recruit 120 people for the first trial to test the vaccine’s safety and monitor the impact on the immune system. Next, a further 800 to 1,000 people will take part in the next stage of the vaccine trial.
There are multiple candidates in India, all in different stages of the process. The leading two candidates Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin and Serum Institute’s Covishield have been approved for emergency use. Another candidate Zydus Cadila’s vaccine ZyCoV-D has been approved for Phase 3 trials.
Last week, an NYT report said the administration had selected five companies, including Moderna Inc, AstraZeneca Plc and Pfizer Inc, as the most likely candidates to produce a vaccine for the Coronavirus. The other companies are Johnson & Johnson and Merck & Co Inc.
The National Institutes of Health has been fast-tracking work with biotech firm Moderna on its mRNA-1273 vaccine candidate to prevent COVID-19. Moderna Inc is presently conducting Stage II trials, is looking to start the ultimate phase of trials as early as July.
Earlier this month, Moderna had released early-stage data that showed the COVID 19 Vaccines successfully produced protective antibodies in a small group of healthy volunteers.