What you need to know about four potential COVID-19 vaccines


The coronavirus pandemic has sparked an unprecedented global rush for a vaccine.

There are more than 100 potential vaccine candidates, according to the World Health Organization, but only eight have entered the crucial phase of clinical trials. Four are in the United States and Europe, the rest in China.

“I never remember anything like that,” said Walter Orenstein, associate director of the Emory University vaccination center in Atlanta, about the number of vaccines being developed to fight a disease. “Hopefully at least one and hopefully more than one will prove to be safe and effective.”

None have yet undergone the full tests necessary to show that they are safe and effective.

While a series of extraordinary measures – imposing residence orders, testing millions of people, wearing masks and taking social distance – can help slow the spread of the virus, experts say the key to fully returning normal is to have a safe and effective vaccine widely available.

Some researchers involved in the process say that in the best of cases, the first doses of a vaccine could be ready in September or October – much faster than any vaccine has ever been developed. The process usually takes years.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump will visit Pennsylvania medical device distributor Thursday at Camp Trump outraged by Jezebel article calling on Stephen Miller to catch coronavirus McConnell: Obama “should have kept his mouth shut” over Trump’s response to coronavirus PLUS trusts getting a vaccine quickly, saying it is a top priority. “We expect to get a vaccine by the end of this year,” he said last week at a Fox News town hall. “And we are pushing very hard. “

Vaccination efforts in the United States are more likely to be made available to Americans first.

New technologies are helping to speed up the process at a much faster rate than the traditional method of giving someone a weakened version of the virus. For example, new technology uses RNA or DNA to code part of the virus to trigger an immune response that provides protection. But this technology has never been widely used for an approved vaccine, adding to the uncertainty.

And given the logistical challenges of mass production, some companies are already preparing to speed up the production of millions of doses, before they even know if their potential vaccine is working.

Here is a guide to the four vaccination efforts in the United States and Europe that have started clinical trials.

University of Oxford / AstraZeneca

Some of the biggest hopes and the most ambitious timetable come from researchers at the University of Oxford, who are now working alongside the British pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca.

“The goal is to have at least a million doses by September, once you know the results of the vaccine’s effectiveness and are moving even faster,” said Oxford professor Adrian Hill at the BBC last month.

The potential vaccine began testing in healthy volunteers in a phase I clinical trial late last month at five sites in England. Data from this trial may be available this month, and further testing could start by the middle of the year, AstraZeneca said on April 30.

The potential vaccine was successful in preventing coronavirus in rhesus macaque monkeys in a laboratory test at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Montana, the New York Times reported last month. It works by using a weakened version of another virus known as adenovirus, which causes infections in chimpanzees, to transmit the genetic material of part of the coronavirus into the body. The body would then generate an immune response to the section of the coronavirus, providing protection.

Moderna / NIH

The Massachusetts biotechnology company Moderna Inc. is in partnership with Anthony FauciAnthony FauciHill’s coronavirus report: Senator Barrasso says it is too early to consider more funding for states; The White House faces new challenges The American Hockey League cancels the playoffs for the first time in 84 years The Hill’s 12:30 Report: The White House struggles after Pence helps positive tests for Covid PLUSNational Institutes of Health team on another leading vaccine candidate.

Moderna said last week that it will begin a phase II study with 600 people “shortly” and plans to start a phase III trial with thousands of people by “early in the summer”.

Stéphane Bancel, the company’s CEO, told CNBC that the process was progressing at an unexpected pace.

“It went faster than my best screenplay in January,” said Bancel. “When we started this on January 11, in partnership with Dr. Tony Fauci’s team, we were hoping to enter the clinic this summer.”

Instead, phase I clinical trials started on March 16 and phase II trials are about to start.

He said his employees “have been working long hours, have been working seven days a week since January” and have worked closely with the NIH and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Thanks to a partnership with the Swiss biotechnology company Lonza, the manufacture of the vaccine could start as early as July, said Bancel, even before the end of the trials.

However, he acknowledged that all vaccine candidates around the world “will all be constrained by supply for a period of time, which means that we will not be able to manufacture as many products as needed to vaccinate everyone on the planet “. He plans to work with governments to decide how to allocate the first doses, for example to health workers and first responders.

This potential vaccine works differently from that in Oxford. It uses messenger RNA (mRNA) to provide the genetic code for part of the coronavirus, which then causes the body’s immune system to respond, providing protection.

Pfizer / BioNTech

Pfizer and the German company BioNTech are also working together on a potential vaccine using mRNA.

They’re testing four potential vaccines at once, using different mRNA formats to see which one works best.

Last week, the companies announced that they had started a phase I trial with up to 360 people at sites such as New York University and the University of Maryland.

Pfizer scientific director Mikael Dolsten told CNBC the company plans to produce “millions of doses” by October, with plans for “tens of millions” later this year and “hundreds of millions” in 2021.

“So it’s a very quick plan,” said Dolsten.

Pfizer, a drug manufacturing center, said it chose its facilities in Massachusetts, Michigan and Missouri, as well as one in Belgium, to be the primary centers for manufacturing the vaccine.


Biotech company Inovio is working on a potential vaccine that uses DNA rather than RNA to encode part of the coronavirus and produce an immune response.

The company says its DNA vaccines can be produced faster and more easily stored, as well as being safer than other types. This vaccine would require an additional step from a portable device to deliver an electrical pulse that helps the vaccine get into human cells.

Inovio announced in late April that it had recruited 40 people for its phase I study at the University of Pennsylvania and a clinic in Kansas City. Intermediate results are expected by June and further testing steps could begin this summer, the company said.

“If we’re on the right track, it could be as early as the end of this year or early next year,” Inovio CEO J. Joseph Kim told The Hill when asked when the first doses of vaccine could be ready for the public.

He said it was “a challenge” to be able to scale up manufacturing “a thousand times” to produce hundreds of millions of doses, and that more federal funding would help.

“More funding and resources will help us move to a larger manufacturing scale,” he said.

Kim acknowledged skepticism about her business, that she has never had an FDA-approved product.

But the company has shown promising results in other areas like MERS and cervical cancer, said Kim.

“I think healthy skepticism is always right,” he said.

Ultimately, the results of the COVID-19 trials should show that the coronavirus vaccine is effective.

“I think the proof should be in the pudding,” he said.


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