Back in December 2019, when an unknown virus started causing flu-like symptoms in humans, none of us knew what to expect. Now, with over 50 million people infected with this virus worldwide, one that WHO has termed as SARS-CoV-2, and more than a million reported deaths, one question is on our minds, ‘When will this be over and when are we getting a vaccine?’
The vaccine is where we’re all placing our hopes for a re-entry into the “normal” post-COVID world. Read on to find out more about vaccines news updates, trial progress, and more.
Latest Vaccine Updates (Worldwide)
Table Of Contents
COVID vaccine trials – where are we at now?
Of course, the point of vaccine development is to harmlessly expose parts of the virus to the immune system, which then recognizes it as an invader and develops a fighting mechanism. Preparing a vaccine undergoes several stages of development, from exploration to trial to manufacturing and market distribution.
The general stages of the development cycle of a vaccine are:
- Exploratory stage
- Pre-clinical stage
- Clinical development
- Regulatory review and approval
- Quality control
For COVID-19, as many as 48 vaccines are in various stages of clinical evaluation, including the following vaccine developers (as per WHO report):
Clinical Trial Stage 3 COVID Vaccines:
- Sinovac – Inactivated candidate vaccine
- Wuhan Institute of Biological Products/Sinopharm – Inactivated candidate vaccine
- Beijing Institute of Biological Products/Sinopharm – Inactivated candidate vaccine
- Bharat Biotech – Whole Virion inactivated candidate vaccine
- University of Oxford/AstraZeneca – ChAdOx1-S
- CanSino Biological Inc./Beijing Institute of Biotechnology – Adenovirus Type 5 Vector
- Gamaleya Research Institute – Adeno-based (rAd26-S+rAd5-S)
- Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies – Adenovirus Type 26 vector
- Novavax – Full-length recombinant SARS CoV-2 glycoprotein nanoparticle vaccine adjuvanted with Matrix M
- Moderna/NIAID – LNP-encapsulated mRNA
- BioNTech/Fosun Pharma/Pfizer – 3 LNP-mRNAs
- Beijing Wantai Biological Pharmacy/ Xiamen University – Intranasal flu-based-RBD
Clinical Trial Stage 2 COVID Vaccines:
- Anhui Zhifei Longcom Biopharmaceutical/Institute of Microbiology, Chinese Academy of Sciences – Adjuvanted recombinant protein (RBD-Dimer)
- Curevac – mRNA
Clinical Trial Stage 1/2 COVID Vaccines:
- Institute of Medical Biology, Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences – Inactivated candidate vaccine
- Research Institute for Biological Safety Problems, Rep of Kazakhstan – Inactivated candidate vaccine
- Beijing Minhai Biotechnology Co., Ltd. – Inactivated candidate vaccine
- Inovio Pharmaceuticals/ International Vaccine Institute – DNA plasmid vaccine with electroporation
- Osaka University/ AnGes/ Takara Bio – DNA plasmid vaccine + Adjuvant
- Cadila Healthcare Limited – DNA plasmid vaccine
- Genexine Consortium – DNA Vaccine (GX-19)
- Kentucky Bioprocessing, Inc – RBD-based Vaccine
- Sanofi Pasteur/GSK – S protein (baculovirus production)
- Biological E Ltd – Adjuvanted protein subunit (RBD)
- Israel Institute for Biological Research – VSV-S
- Arcturus/Duke-NUS – mRNA
- SpyBiotech/Serum Institute of India – RBD-HBsAg VLPs
Clinical Trial Stage 1 COVID Vaccines:
- Symvivo – bacTRL-Spike
- ImmunityBio, Inc. & NantKwest Inc. – hAd5 S+N 2nd Generation Human Adenovirus Type 5 Vector (hAd5) Spike (S) + Nucleocapsid (N)
- ReiThera/LEUKOCARE/Univercells – Replication defective Simian Adenovirus (GRAd) encoding S
- CanSino Biological Inc/Institute of Biotechnology, Academy of Military Medical Sciences, PLA of China – Ad5-nCoV
- Vaxart – Ad5 adjuvanted Oral Vaccine platform
- Ludwig-Maximilians – University of Munich – MVA-SARS-2-S
There are several other COVID vaccines that have entered or are now entering the first phase of the trial and some more which are in the pre-clinical phase that awaits the clinical stage of development.
Latest updates about approved COVID Vaccine candidates
Pfizer-BioNTech COVID Vaccine
In the race to discover an effective vaccine against the deadly coronavirus, Pfizer was the first to release a late-stage trial preliminary results. Developed in partnership with Germany’s BioNTech SE Pfizer’s mRNA-based vaccine, BNT162b2, has more than 90% efficacy, around 95% with trials held across 6 countries.
Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine is an mRNA vaccine meaning, it uses an experimental approach where a slice of the virus’s genetic code is injected into the body so as to train the immune system to fight it. It does so by producing the coronavirus spike protein, prompting the production of T-cells and antibodies that destroy the infected cells.
Volunteers reported that the side effect of the vaccine was synonymous with a “severe hangover” where they had a bit of headache, fever, and muscle ache. While effective in reducing transmission and stopping development, it is yet unknown how long this vaccine is effective after the second dose.
When will the Pfizer vaccine be available?
Pfizer aims to supply 50 million doses worldwide by the end of this year, 300 million doses by next April, and about 1.3 billion by the end of 2021.
The firm has been sanctioned US authorization for emergency use of the vaccine for people aged 16 to 85 and the UK, Bahrain, Canada, Mexico, Singapore, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait had followed suit.
IN UK, Pfizer will be providing 10 million doses by the end of 2020, with a further 30 million doses already ordered. Efforts are underway in the US to amp up Pfizer vaccine production to up to tens of millions by first quarter of 2020.
Overall efficacy: 95% 28 days after the first dose
In Russia, their vaccine candidate Sputnik V became the world’s first registered vaccine against COVID-19 in August after the Ministry of Health of Russia sanctioned it based on the human adenoviral vector platform.
Russian researchers report that the vaccine is almost 92% effective in preventing COVID-19, as received from the interim results of stage 3 trials. Some 16,000 participants were evaluated for this study of the COVID vaccine and now, over 320,000 people have been vaccinated with its home-grown shots.
The Sputnik vaccine comes in two variants: liquid form, which needs to be stored at minus 18 degrees Celsius, and lyophilized (freeze-dried) form, which can be stored at 2-8 degrees Celsius.
Being developed by the Gamaleya National Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology, Sputnik-V has now also arrived in India for its Phase 2/3 human clinical trial across at least 10 sites in around 1500 candidates as an initiative between Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories and Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF).
Overall efficacy: 91.4%
Moderna COVID Vaccine
In a piece of encouraging news along with Pfizer’s, the preliminary data from US-based Moderna Inc’s vaccine candidate has shown to be 94.5% effective. The results came from an independent monitoring study that examined 95 infections recorded starting two weeks after volunteers’ second dose. All but five illnesses occurred in participants who got the placebo. Now after Pfizer, Moderna COVID vaccine has received the green signal for mass innoculation in the US.
The National Institutes of Health is producing the Moderna COVID vaccine and just like the Pfizer vaccine, it had entered the last stage of the clinical trial in July. Moderna uses the same messenger RNA technology as the Pfizer vaccine.
Dummy injections of the Moderna vaccine had been registered in around 30,000 volunteers who have reported no major side effects apart from some participants experiencing fatigue, muscle aches, and injection-site pain after the second dose. The second dose of the Moderna vaccine is injected after 4 weeks of the first one.
By the end of the year 2020, Moderna hopes to manufacture 20 million doses of its experimental vaccine out of the 200 million doses already ordered by the US government.
China has recently claimed vaccination of almost a million people since July developed by Sinovac Biotech Ltd. and the state-owned China National Biotec Group Co., known as CNBG. The inactivated vaccine (formalin with alum adjuvant) known as CoronaVac had received emergency use authorization in China in July following promising trial results. The country is now eyeing wider distribution of the vaccine, starting with the most vulnerable groups in the population.
Indonesia’s order of 160 million vaccine doses will mostly be met by the Sinovac vaccine (140 million doses) as it awaits emergency use authorization from BPOM once interim results are published in January 2021.
Based on trial results from Indonesia and Brazil, as well as interim analyses in Turkey, Sinovac vaccine is almost set to get approval for mass inoculation in Turkey in January even before it’s phase 3 trials are completed.
Claimed efficacy: 97%
COVID vaccine Sinopharm
Meanwhile, the news on the latest trial of the Chinese COVID-19 vaccine—a part of partnership between Sinopharm’s China National Biotec Group (CNBG) and Abu Dhabi-based artificial intelligence and cloud computing company Group 42 (G42)—has been positive. Now almost at the end of the large-scale third phase trial, China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm) says that results have been better than expected.
Doses had been registered to 31,000 people in the UAE, Egypt, Bahrain, and Jordan during the trials. In this particular COVID-19 vaccine, an inactivated virus is used. Proven to be successful,
The UAE and Bahrain became the first countries in the gulf to authorize the Sinopharm vaccine for mass distribution outside China. the company targets a production scale between 75 and 100 million doses next year in the UAE. There is, however, a lack of public data on the safety and efficacy for this Chinese vaccine.
Major COVID Vaccine Candidates Awaiting Authorization
Produced by AstraZeneca, the Oxford university vaccine awaits clearance from MHRA for mass distribution starting January 2021.
Meanwhile in India, the Pune-based firm Serum Institute of India (the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer) is conducting the Phase 2/3 trials of the Oxford University vaccine and has applied for emergency use authorization in India.
Preliminary outcomes are promising, with no notable concerns. This AstraZeneca-Oxford or ChAdOx1 or AZD1222 vaccine is also being dubbed as Covishield in India. It is produced from a weakened version of one of the common cold adenovirus that causes infections in chimpanzees. The Oxford vaccine has an edge over the other candidates as its logistics are simpler and can be distributed without much hassle. The authorization in India will hopefully occur by the end of the year.
Serum Institute now aims to produce 100 million (10 crores) doses by December once further results from this last stage are found to be promising.
Efficiency: ranges between 62% to 90% depending on number of doses and other factors
A vaccine candidate christened Covaxin is also being developed by Bharat Biotech India. A milestone in India’s innovation in vaccinology, Covaxin has begun phase 3 clinical trials. The doses are being registered in around 26,000 participants across 22 sites in the country, making it India’s largest clinical trial for a Covid-19 vaccine.
In fact, India’s Union health minister Harsh Vardhan had stated that as many as 20 vaccines are in the several stages of development in the country. A grant of USD 120 million for COVID-19 vaccine research has been announced by the government.
Expected efficacy: 60%