COVID-19 has infected over 19 million people and killed over 700,000 people, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
If you’re looking for a healthy dose of reality when it comes to the Coronavirus vaccine, read on.
Find out what tests are on, what’s taking so long, and when can we realistically expect to have a product on the market, though many are already taking their chances with early serums. A shot in the dark?
COVID-19 Research Teams
According to the WHO, 140 teams of researchers or more are developing in their labs a COVID-19 vaccine.
Statista.com says one vaccine candidate by the University of Oxford has successfully triggered a strong immune response in trials involving 1,077 people, during Phase I/II trials.
The vaccine is made from a genetically engineered virus that causes the common cold in chimpanzees.
The university has commitments to supply over 2 billion doses of its vaccine to the UK (already ordered 100 million doses), US and others in Europe and India.
Phase III involves thousands of people receiving the vaccine to eliminate any final safety fears, particularly considering side effects.
Already in Phase III clinical trial is a collaboration between health authorities of Abu Dhabi and Beijing of a vaccine to treat the novel coronavirus with testing involving over 5000 candidates.
Euronews interviewed Ashish Koshy, the CEO of Group 42, an Abu Dhabi-based artificial intelligence and cloud computing company currently involved in the development of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Koshy said:“Sinopharm has two inactivated vaccines in the top ten race and that’s essentially the synergy we saw…a strong partner that we could bring into the UAE…and give early access to the UAE residents.”
Group 42 involves AI, a bioinformatics pipeline to showcase and identify patterns once the clinical phase three trials start up. Koshy expects a vaccine by the end of 2020 or early 2021.
Russia meanwhile is testing and vaccinating the country’s billionaire tycoons and some government officials willing to take the risk.
State-run efforts have completed phase 1 testing of the Gamaleya vaccine which involved only about 40 people, but has begun the next stage of testing with a larger group.
The vaccine is based on a common cold virus fused with the spike protein of SARS CoV-2 to stimulate an immune response, similar to a vaccine being developed by China’s CanSino Biologics, which is already in phase 2 trials with plans for more in Canada.
The US company Moderna made early headlines with a vaccine that can produce neutralising antibodies. They are injecting Coronavirus RNA (its genetic code), which then starts making viral proteins in order to trigger an immune response.
BioNtech and Pfizer have also had positive results using their RNA vaccine.
What’s taking so long?
Some long standing infectious diseases don’t yet have a cure and these include the Plague, AIDS, and others.
Vaccines can take many years to be developed. The mere fact that vaccines are to be released within a 6-9 months’ period is an achievement especially when compared to previous efforts.
The Smallpox vaccine took several centuries to discover.
Yellow fever caused deadly epidemics for more than 500 years until in 1951, Max Theiler received a Nobel Prize for its vaccine.
It took researchers 15 years before a vaccine was approved.
Many expect that a global effort using today’s data sharing capabilities and platforms coupled with AI technology can trim those time gaps to mere months, and that’s still left to be seen.