Drugmakers GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi said on Friday that their potential COVID-19 vaccine would not be ready until the end of next year, as they need to improve the vaccine’s effectiveness in the elderly.
The companies said the first trials showed the vaccine produced an “insufficient” immune response in the elderly, demonstrating the need to refine the product to protect people of all ages. London-based GSK and Paris-based Sanofi now expect the vaccine to be available in the fourth quarter of 2021.
“The results of the study are not what we expected,” Roger Connor, president of GSK Vaccines, said in a statement.
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As researchers around the world rush to develop COVID-19 vaccines, the setback announced by Sanofi and GSK shows the challenges scientists face as they attempt to condense a process that typically takes years into months. Australian researchers said on Friday they were dropping their own vaccine candidate because it produced false positives in HIV tests.
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Canada has arranged the purchase of 72 million COVID-19 vaccines from Sanofi Pasteur, which could be ready in the spring of next year.
Public health experts say more vaccines will be needed to end the pandemic, which has killed more than 1.5 million people worldwide, due to the challenges of rapidly producing and distributing sufficient doses to immunize billions of people.
A vaccine produced by US drug maker Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech has been cleared for widespread use in the UK and a handful of other countries. Canada approved the vaccine this week, meaning the vaccines could be distributed to Canadians within days.
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A U.S. government advisory committee on Thursday approved the use of the Pfizer vaccine, putting the country one step away from launching its own mass immunization program.
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GSK and Sanofi said they were convinced of the ultimate success of their vaccine due to positive results from other tests.
In adults aged 18 to 49, the vaccine produced an immune response comparable to that of patients who had recovered from COVID-19, the companies said. In addition, they reported positive results from a “challenge study” in which non-human primates were intentionally exposed to the virus.
“Following these results and the latest encouraging preclinical data, we will now work to further optimize our candidate to achieve this goal,” said Thomas Triomphe, head of the vaccines unit at Sanofi. “No pharmaceutical company can do it alone. The world needs more than one vaccine to fight the pandemic. ”
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Researchers at the University of Queensland and Australian biopharmaceutical company CSL said on Friday they would not go ahead with their own vaccine candidate because a protein in the vaccine triggered false positive results for HIV . Follow-up tests confirmed that no HIV was present, the researchers said.
The vaccine was found to be safe and produced a “robust response” to COVID-19 during phase one trials, the researchers said in a statement. Although it would have been possible to redesign the vaccine to avoid the false positive problem, it would have taken too long amid the pandemic, they said.
“This would delay development by about 12 months, and although it is a difficult decision to make, the urgent need for a vaccine must be everyone’s priority,” said Professor Paul Young, co – project leader.
– with Global News files
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