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COVID-19 Vaccine Contenders Race Against the Clock, and Each Other

Last Updated September 23, 2020 1:58 PM
David Haggith
Last Updated September 23, 2020 1:58 PM
  • Oxford University’s coronavirus vaccine gets significant financial backing and promises possible September vaccine delivery.
  • China and Canada teamed up on the first human testing of a vaccine, and initial results are positive.
  • Moderna’s recent vaccination tests were small in number but sent the stock market soaring.

In the race to find a COVID-19 vaccine, hope for more than one winner could emerge as early as September. The three leading contenders come from the UK, China, and the U.S. As the video below lays out, there are:

Two front runners in the hunt for the vaccine, both reporting great strides. The U.S.-backed Oxford University project announced its rapidly expanding human testing…. From the original epicenter, China, scientists … report promising results, too.

Oxford University’s Coronavirus Vaccine Leads The Pack

It began in January as a “little lab project” after a curious new disease emerged in China. Little more than four months later, the eyes of the nation – and perhaps the world – are firmly upon Professor Adrian Hill and his team at Oxford University.

Team Oxford ambitiously said at first that it hoped to have a million inexpensive doses ready by September. That would be the fastest finish to a vaccine ever.

In the article just quoted , however, project leader Prof Hill has warned against ‘over-promising,’ saying that the COVID-19 vaccine’s success is far from guaranteed.

Still, people placed big bets on the vaccine.

This week, the Oxford University vaccine, which began its first trial one month ago, got major support from another team:

The pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca announced a $1.2 billion deal with the U.S. government to produce 400 million doses of the unproven coronavirus vaccine.

Suddenly the once-ambitious hope of a million doses looked modest.

The UK drugmaker received the money from the U.S. Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, saying it has secured eventual capacity to make 1 billion doses .

Although AstraZeneca has said it expects to have shots ready as soon as September, the company’s vaccine candidate is still in human trials, with no guarantee of success.

AstraZeneca expects to have the 400-million doses of coronavirus vaccine ready by October if the fast-tracked test is a success.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Department, the tests are being done under Operation Warp Speed to secure vaccines for the U.S.

AstraZeneca’s priority is to supply the UK with a vaccine, but it says it is working “to ensure global access.”

Astra said it’s working with groups including the World Health Organization … on making sure the vaccine is allocated fairly.

The Oxford University vaccine was first to go to trial. Hundreds of Britons have already been given the needle’s poke. Now the vaccine moves to an accelerated trial of 10,000.

That puts this competitor at the lead of the race to a COVID-19 vaccine. If successful, it will finish months ahead of the 12- to 18-month timeline projected by vaccine experts.

Team China Running Neck-And-Neck With U.S. and UK in Race for COVID-19 Vaccine

While the U.S. and UK race together to find a vaccine, China has teamed up with Canada.

Team China may not be more than a nose behind, but they don’t expect their vaccine to be ready this fall:

The study is being conducted in Wuhan, China , by the Beijing Institute of Biotechnology and CanSino Biologics, but it only includes 108 healthy adults.

The vaccine produced no serious adverse effects at all doses — and was tolerated well…. After two weeks, the vaccine produced virus-fighting antibodies across all dose levels.

The vaccine, however, is not 100% effective with the:

highest dose level triggering antibodies in 61 percent of those who took it.

CanSino’s vaccine was one of the first COVID-19 vaccines to enter early human trials back in March. According to LiveScience :

In the new study, published Friday (May 22) in the journal The Lancet, the researchers tested Ad5-nCoV in 108 healthy people ages 18 to 60 who didn’t have COVID-19…. By 28 days, nearly all participants had developed antibodies.

About ten percent of the participants reported adverse effects that included a fever.

One participant in the high dose group developed a high fever along with fatigue, shortness of breath  and muscle pain. However these effects lasted no more than 48 hours.

Cambridge’s Moderna Is Also a Major Front-Runner in the Race to Save Humanity

The third horse that looks like it may place in the top three is Moderna, a biotech firm based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Test results came back promising last week for Moderna, but results are only back from eight people so far. Moderna is awaiting results from the test’s remaining thirty-seven participants.

The test’s early positive results were cheered by the stock market, but eight people are not considered enough to be meaningful in the medical community.

It is, however, enough to be hopeful.

The small study is too skewed toward otherwise healthy people to know if it’s safe or effective for the elderly or immuno-compromised.

The elderly often fail to build an antibody response to vaccines. Thirty to forty percent do not even respond to common flu vaccines. 

Moderna is hoping to finish sometimes before the end of the year. Almost no adverse side effects have been reported so far.

Some say such breakthrough hopes are “fake news”:

Over 100 teams around the world are racing to find a vaccine.

The vaccines pulling to the front of the race all use a revolutionary viral RNA-splitting technique. That means, until now, we have no experience with the side effects of these kinds of vaccines in human beings.