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LEADING THE RACE: At least 10 vaccine candidates from around the world are in late-stage (Phase 3) clinical trials, out of 150 or so COVID-19 vaccines in development. The virus has kicked up a global economic meltdown, with 51 million coronavirus cases and 1.26 million deaths recorded as of November 10, 2010. With millions of jobs lost, a heightened sense of altruism has emerged, as tens of thousands of vaccine trial volunteers were recruited relatively quickly. Hyper collaboration between scientists and health authorities is driving vaccine development, enabled by cloud computing. These factors, absent in the previous era of vaccine makers, help speed up vaccine trials today, compared to previous pandemics. It typically takes 4 years to develop a vaccine. But this time, hopes are high that at least one shot could hit the market in record time, without compromising safety and efficacy.
Image Credit: File / Gulf News
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$32- $37 - MESSENGER RNA: Moderna announced on Monday (November 16, 2020), that their COVID-19 vaccine is vaccine "94.5% effective". The Massachusetts-based biotech company is working in collaboration with the US National Institutes of Health. This new type of vaccine relies on injecting components of a virus’s genetic material, a messenger RNA (mRNA), into human cells. Unlike other vaccines, it doesn't use an actual virus. Instead, it creates viral proteins that mimic the coronavirus. As such it trains the human immune system to get activated. The vaccine technology is a new, unproven platform that had been under development since the 1990s. If it succeeds, however, mRNA-1273 would be the first such vaccine approved for human use. How mRNA vaccine works: https://gn24.ae/9f1d22dc3395000
Image Credit: AFP
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$19.50 - SUPPLY CONTRACT SIGNED: The vaccine project of New York-based Pfizer and German biotech company BioNTech is also based on the mRNA platform. It was developed by the German company’s earlier efforts on experimental cancer treatment. On July 27, 2020, they started the BNT162b2 trial which combines Phases 2 and 3 by enrolling 30,000 people from 39 US states and from Brazil, Argentina, and Germany. Pfizer has signed a $1.95 billion supply contract with the US government to provide 100 million doses by December 2020. The deal kicks in when and if the drug is approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Following the interim analysis showing the drug is 90% effective, Pfizer now reportedly seeking emergency use authorization (EUA) from the FDA by end-November 2020.
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$4 - SHOT FROM OXFORD: AZD1222, also known as the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, is the vaccine developed by researchers at the University of Oxford’s Jenner Institute. On August 22, 2020, they started enrolling subjects in a phase 2/3 clinical trial of AstraZeneca-partnered COVID-19 vaccine. The project completed a 1,000-subject Phase 1, and now working on a 40,051-subject Phase 3 in the UK. A Phase 3 clinical trial listing [https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT04516746] shows “study completion date” by October 25, and “primary completion date” by December 22, 2020.
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$145 FOR TWO SHOTS*: Sinopharm's China National Biotec Group (CNBG), a state-owned pharmaceutical company, says that its COVID-19 vaccine will reach market by December. “It is expected to cost a few hundred yuan for a shot, and for two shots it should be less than 1000 yuan ($145),” Sinopharm CEO Liu Jingzhen, told Guangming Daily. On July 26, 2020, the Phase 3 trial for the SinoPharm vaccine kicked off in Abu Dhabi, UAE, which quickly signed up thousands. About 31,000 volunteers took part in the UAE Phase 3 vaccine trials as of end-August 2020. It was the world's first Phase 3 clinical trial of the COVID-19 "inactivated" vaccine platform.
Image Credit: CNBG
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INACTIVATED VACCINE: Sinovac Biotech's CoronaVac SARS-CoV-2 Vaccine candidate is based on an inactivated pathogen. A phase 3 clinical trial aims to recruit 9,000 people, mostly healthcare professionals, working in COVID-19 specialised facilities in 12 clinical sites, located in several states in Brazil. No price was given by the developers yet.
Image Credit: Xinhua
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APPROVED FOR USE IN THE CHINESE MILITARY: The Ad5-nCoV vaccine candidate is a genetically engineered vaccine candidate with the adenovirus type 5 as the "vector" (carrier) to express SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. The vaccine candidate is built upon CanSinoBIO’s adenovirus-based viral vector vaccine technology platform. The vaccine was co-developed by the Beijing Institute of Biotechnology. On June 29, 2020, China's Central Military Commission gave its approval for Ad5-nCoV to be used in the Chinese military from one year.
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$13.20 - READY FOR MASS PRODUCTION: Serum Institute, an Indian biotech firm and the world's largest vaccine maker by volume, is girding up for hundreds of millions of shots. It envisages a price of Rs1,000 ($13.20) per shot, though governments may give it to their people without charge, said Serum Institute's Cyrus Poonawalla. According to Suresh Jadhav, Executive Director of SII, the vaccine maker will start manufacturing the vaccine the moment the Phase-3 trial or the combined Phase-2/Phase-3 trial begins.
Image Credit: Oxford
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PARTNERSHIP WITH INDIA: On August 11, 2020, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia’s Sputnik V was the “world's first vaccine against COVID-19”. Developed by Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology, Sputnik V is reportedly “90%” effective and forms a "stable immunity" against the disease. Kirill Dmitriev, the CEO of the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), who developed the shot with Gamaleya, said they have tied up with India's Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories to conduct the clinical trials and distribution of Sputnik V vaccine in India. RDIF will supply 100 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to Dr. Reddy’s. The Sputnik V based on the adenoviral vector platform. If the trials succeed the vaccines will be available in India as early as November this year. No price was given yet for the Russian vaccine.
Image Credit: AFP
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PRICE DROP: Prices of vaccines eventually drop over time. There's also a growing evidence that the GAVI Vaccine Alliance is helping bring down prices for vaccines. This happened for hepatitis B, DTP-hepB and one-in-five pentavalent vaccines. Graph shows Price decline of hepatitis B vaccines. Under a new landmark collaboration between the Serum Institute of India (SII), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced on August 7, 2020, manufacturing and delivery of up to 100 million doses of future safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines will be accelerated for low- and middle-income countries in 2021.
Image Credit: Gavi/UNICEF Supply Division, 2010