Covid - 19: The Race for a Vaccine

Covid - 19: The Race for a Vaccine

By goodlittleboy

Covid-19 took the entire world by storm. It incited panic across nations. It was a new virus which had no immunity and no vaccine. It was a novelty virus as scientists were unaware how it behaved. They had very little information in hand to go on.  

The colossal impact of the virus motivated the speed for a search for a vaccine. Research began happening at breakneck speed. Scientists could not use the older strategies of developing vaccines were by obtaining the virus and then deactivating it or weakening it. Those processes were lengthy. Now the cutting-edge approaches require scientists only to know the virus’ genetic sequence. With that, they can string together the right pieces of code to synthesize vaccines. 

Currently, researchers are working on more than 165 vaccines. There are just about two dozen of them already being tested on human beings. Human trials focus on safety and finding the best dose. There are four major forerunners whose vaccines are headed towards the most important phase 3 trials.

Two of the leading candidates in the field of vaccine development for Covid-19 are Pfizer and a rather young company called Moderna. Pfizer is working in collaboration with BioNTech. Both these companies are using novel methods. Traditional vaccines expose the body to a viral protein to stimulate the immune system. The researchers of these companies use genetic material from the coronavirus called messenger RNA, or mRNA. The mRNA acts as an instruction kit, telling the body how to construct the proteins itself. 

Another hopeful candidate is the vaccine being developed by Oxford University and drug maker AstraZeneca. Early studies have shown that the Oxford vaccine stimulates the immune system as intended. Meanwhile, several Chinese companies are advancing in the race to find a vaccine, with Beijing based company SinoVac showing the most promising results. It is launching a phase III trial of its vaccine in Brazil.

Russia has recently declared that it has been successful in developing a vaccine for Convid – 19. Experts however, are skeptical of this vaccine as it did not go through the phase III clinical trials. The World Health Organization (WHO) is looking forward to reviewing clinical trials of this potential vaccine.

How are clinical trials of vaccines carried out? Clinical trial of a new vaccine is a three-stage process. Small groups of people receive the trial vaccine during Phase I. In Phase II, the clinical trial is expanded. The vaccine is given to people who have characteristics similar to those for whom the vaccine is intended. In Phase III, the vaccine is given to thousands of people and tested for efficacy and safety. Many vaccines undergo Phase IV also. This is ongoing studies after the vaccine is approved and licensed.

Exactly what all this speed will translate into remains to be seen. Scientists and regulators are already stressing that safeguards aren’t being jettisoned. While manufacturing and regulatory steps are being streamlined, safety checks aren’t being sacrificed.

Let’s keep our fingers crossed!

 

 

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