The COVID-19 vaccine race is at an unprecedented pace


The most potential COVID-19 vaccines belong to the US, Russia, UK, China, and are prepared based on three vector virus technologies, inactivated virus and genetic technology.

Vaccines generally require years of research and testing before they are used. To date, 44 vaccines are being tested in humans. This is considered an unprecedented speed in the history of research and development of vaccines.

Scientists around the world have been working on COVID-19 vaccine since January 2020, when China released data on the genetic sequence of nCoV. Human trials began in March, with a number of positive results. However, the road ahead is still uncertain.

The global COVID-19 vaccine race is more exciting than ever as Russia has a high chance of becoming the first country to release data on phase 3 vaccine trials. Russia is planning to release preliminary results. Sputnik V vaccine testing kit in late October, after the first 6 weeks of follow-up. Alexander Gintsburg, the head of the Gamaleya Institute, which developed the vaccine, said Russia had made Sputnik V at “wartime speed”, but made sure not to go off any stage. Russia targets Sputnik V to be 75% more effective than a placebo, exceeding the 50% threshold set by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Another potential “candidate” in the vaccine group from virus vectors is Johnson & Johnson. The company started phase 1/2 testing in July. Initial results show that the vaccine induces an immune response and is safe enough to convert to large scale. 99% of study participants, 18 to 55 years old, in both groups, the vaccine developed antibodies against nCoV after 29 days of injection. Side effects include fever, headache, fatigue, body aches and soreness at the injection site … Phase 3 trial was launched in September with up to 60,000 participants.

Oxford University and UK pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca have also chosen ChAdOx1 vaccine virus vector technology. In the phase 1/2 trial, the product did not produce any adverse effects. Scientists report that the injection helps the body produce antibodies against nCoV. Phase three trials were conducted in Brazil, South Africa and the US. But on September 6, AstraZeneca stopped research globally by a volunteer developing transverse myelitis symptoms. Tests in Brazil, South Africa were resumed a week later.

Meanwhile, the TB vaccine BCG will be tested on frontline health workers in the UK for its effectiveness against COVID-19. The UK study is part of an existing Australia-led trial that was launched in April and has also been tested in the Netherlands, Spain and Brazil. The BCG vaccine is also being tested for protection against COVID-19 in South Africa.

China views the development of the nCoV vaccine as a “political mission”, with four out of ten “candidates” moving rapidly to end-stage testing. As of October, 4 out of 10 “candidates” for the COVID-19 vaccine in China have entered phase 3 of clinical trials around the world. This is the last and most important test step before applying for approval to the regulator.

Two of them are “candidates” developed by Biotech (CNBG). CNBG was originally a subsidiary of China National Pharmaceutical Corporation (Sinopharm), a state-owned unit. Another “candidate” is CoronaVac, developed by pharmaceutical firm Sinovac Biotech. The last vaccine in the four-category group is in phase 3, jointly developed by the Beijing Institute of Biotechnology in cooperation with the Chinese military and the CanSino Biologics vaccine company.

Most Chinese experts expressed optimism and confidence that the “candidates” will soon show positive results. Currently, developers continue to collect large-scale clinical trial data, preparing to apply for marketing approval from relevant agencies.

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