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Moderna, Pfizer and AstraZeneca: What is the latest on COVID-19 vaccine from the manufacturers?

This past week was an action packed in terms of announcements from Moderna, Pfizer and AstraZeneca-University of Oxford. All of them have reported positive data on their vaccine safety and efficacy, raising hopes of availability of a potential safe Covid-19 vaccine by end of December or January next year.
Nov 22, 2020 / 12:43 PM IST
Representative Image (Image: Reuters)
Representative Image (Image: Reuters)

This past week was an action packed in terms of announcements from Moderna, Pfizer and AstraZeneca-University of Oxford. All of them have reported positive data on their vaccine safety and efficacy, raising hopes of availability of a potential safe COVID-19 vaccine by end of December or January next year.

Moderna said the first interim analysis of its COVID-19 vaccine demonstrated 94.5 percent efficacy. The company intends to submit an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) application with the USFDA in the coming weeks.

Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech reported that their COVID-19 vaccine candidate, was 95 percent effective without any major safety concerns. Pfizer has filed for EUA in US.

Both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require cold chain with ultra low temperatures, while Pfizer must be stored at about minus 70° Celsius, and Moderna vaccine would need minus 20° Celsius. If Pfizer doesn't do something, its vaccine may largely be out of bounds for Indians, given the fact that India doesn't have the cold storage to deal with -70° C, even Moderna's -20° C would also be challenging.

You can read this explainer comparing two vaccines.

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COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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University of Oxford-AstraZeneca have said that their vaccine has shown produced a strong immune response in older adults in Phase-2 clinical. The University of Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine candidate had been among the front-runners in global efforts to develop shots to protect against COVID-19.

In India, Bharat Biotech said it has begun Phase-3 trial of its COVID-19 vaccine Covaxin, which it is developing in collaboration with ICMR. The company plans to enrol up to 26,000 participants, in what is considered to be the largest ever efficacy trial to be done in India.

However the latest media reports about a serious adverse event of Covaxin Phase-1 trial has raised some concerns. The Times of India reported that the participant was hospitalised with viral pneumonitis, a couple of days after being administered the vaccine. He was discharged after a week’s stay in the hospital.

Bharat Biotech said the adverse event during Phase I clinical trials in August was promptly to the CDSCO-DCGI within 24 hours of its occurrence and confirmation. The company said they investigated the adverse even and determined it as not vaccine related. But we still don't have information such as whether the participant who had adverse event is part of control group (received placebo) or vaccine group. If the participant is from control group, than it wouldn't of big concern.

Bharat Biotech is developing inactivated vaccine based on the SARS-CoV2 virus strain given by ICMR.

Please read this explainer to know more about serious adverse events in clinical trials.

Another interesting development this week China's state-owned vaccine maker China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm) said it had already inoculated a million people with its experimental COVID-19 vaccine.

The vaccine has been administered even as clinical or human trials of the vaccine are yet to be completed. In fact China launched has launched vaccination in July itself. The company claimed that the vaccines has been safe. China as part of vaccine diplomacy efforts has raised the pitch for its COVID-19 vaccines globally.

China's President Xi Jinping at 12th Brics summit made an offer of extending cooperation to India on COVID-19 vaccines.

The COVID-19 cases were surfaced in Wuhan, China before spreading to the entire world. Currently China's vaccines are are getting testing its in UAE, Pakistan, African countries and Brazil.
Viswanath Pilla is a business journalist with 14 years of reporting experience. Based in Mumbai, Pilla covers pharma, healthcare and infrastructure sectors for Moneycontrol.
first published: Nov 22, 2020 12:43 pm

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