The Quint’s Newsletter: COVID-19 Vaccine? We’re Getting There

And if you’re wondering who gets them first, remember, it’s a global race, and availability may get competitive.

Updated
Coronavirus
3 min read
And if you’re wondering who gets them first, remember, it’s a global race, and availability may get competitive.
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The Quint’s Newsletter: COVID-19 Vaccine? We’re Getting There

"Tomorrow. Vaccines. Just saying."

Following The Lancet Editor Richard Horton's tweet on Monday evening, results from all kinds of trials came cascading down. The medical journal published data from the initial phase of trials conducted by the University of Oxford's Jenner Institute that indicates the vaccine is safe and produces an immune response. Oxford's vaccine, in collaboration with AstraZeneca, has stepped ahead of the curve, becoming the first to start Phase 3 clinical trials. You can read all about the various stages and types of vaccines being made across the world to tackle the coronavirus pandemic right here.

The trial was conducted on over a 1,000 people. It was a randomised control trial (a gold standard in research). Half the candidates got the coronavirus vaccine and the other half got meningitis vaccine. The vaccine produced dual immune response – producing both neutralising antibodies and killer T cells. There were no major adverse effects, and side effects were treated with a paracetamol.

‘Cautiously optimistic’ is how most experts are viewing the results, including researchers who are part of the study group. One of the reasons for this abundance of caution is that they don’t know how long the immune response will last.

While the world took in the results, another set of data, released by Chinas CanSino vaccine, also published in The Lancet, was released. Both Oxford and China are using similar technology to produce their vaccines – both are viral vector, meaning they work by altering the genes of another common virus called the adenovirus. In other words, it mimics a coronavirus and induces an immune response.

The Quint’s Newsletter: COVID-19 Vaccine? We’re Getting There

But the night wasn’t over yet. Pfizer and German company BioNTech released additional data from an earlier study as well. Their data has also shown strong immune response, stronger, some experts say, than that of US-based Moderna's vaccine. Moderna, the first off the block in human vaccines, had just last week published their initial data. Both these vaccines work by using a specially engineered genetic material called mRNA.

So yes, it’s raining vaccine data.

What's next? Phase 3 human trials are already underway for Oxford – while all others go into Phase 3 trials by end of this month.

Phase 3 trials are essential to establish efficacy and safety of any vaccine, and while everything is fast-tracked, the data will have to be closely monitored. Experts have already warned we may need more than one vaccine to beat the coronavirus pandemic.

Then, of course, comes availability. AstraZeneca, and closer home, Serum Institute in Pune, have said they will produce billions of doses of the Oxford vaccine. Who gets them first? Already the wealthy countries have pitched their tents and signed deals to get the first doses off the belt. It’s a global race, and availability may get competitive and complicated.

P.S. Before you go, The Quints Webqoof team is bringing you a chance to attend a webinar with Indias leading fact-checkers. To brave the onslaught of fake news during the pandemic, learn from those who are leading the fight against disinformation. Register here.

VAISHALI SOOD

Editor, Health

@vaishalisood

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