Dr Haas said he expected to have this data by mid-May. There is no way to know in advance how CureVac will perform. But given the performance of other RNA vaccines, as well as the early results of CureVac, some scientists have high expectations.
“I would be really surprised if it didn’t work well,” said John Moore, a virologist at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City who collaborated with CureVac on an RNA-based vaccine against HIV.
Still, CureVac’s vaccine faces a challenge that Pfizer and Moderna did not have: new variants that may be able to blunt its effectiveness. Experiments in mice have suggested that the vaccine works well against the B.1.351 variant, which first appeared in South Africa.
Last year, CureVac partnered with a number of large companies to ramp up production of its Covid vaccine, in case its clinical trials go well. The company has also negotiated an agreement with the European Union for 225 million doses, as well as an option to add 180 million more doses in the following months.
But now it’s unclear who might receive the CureVac vaccine if it becomes available next month. In January, the European Union gave an emergency clearance for a vaccine from AstraZeneca, planning to rely on the company for the bulk of its supply. But AstraZeneca broke its supply promises, prompting the bloc to retaliate with a lawsuit.
In April, the European Union finally corrected this shortfall, negotiating with Pfizer and BioNTech to obtain 1.8 billion doses of their vaccine by 2023. The arrangement has left analysts wondering what the remaining demand will be. for CureVac.
“They are going to miss the boat in the major advanced economy markets,” said Dr Kirkegaard. “The United States, Europe and Japan will be extensively vaccinated using these Moderna and Pfizer vaccines.”