CAPE TOWN – The race to find the coronavirus vaccine is nearing the final stage. The World Health Organization (WHO) is tracking 196 vaccine studies.
Of these, 42 have been identified as “candidate vaccines” at the stage of clinical trials. Ten of them are at the most advanced “phase 3” stage, in which a vaccine’s effectiveness is tested on a large scale.
US biotech firm Moderna, a US-German collaboration between BioNTech and Pfizer, several state-run Chinese labs, and a European project led by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca are thought to be among the more promising.
However, the AstraZeneca trial was recently stopped for a week after one volunteer fell ill but it is continuing in several other countries including South Africa.
The World Health Organisation says it doesn’t expect a vaccine to be pushed out this year due to the time it takes to test safety.
“In terms of realistic timelines, we’re really not expecting to see widespread vaccinations until the middle of next year. This Phase 3 must take longer because you need to see how truly protective the vaccine is. You also need to see how safe it is,” said WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris.
China and Russia have already approved some vaccines for limited use. The Wuhan Institute of Biological Products has a vaccine being used on health workers in the United Arab Emirates.
Meanwhile, US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer has begun manufacturing hundreds of thousands of doses of its Covid-19 vaccine ahead of its expected approval next month.
The company says it expects to file for emergency use authorization for its Covid-19 vaccine in late November, around two weeks after the November 3 US presidential election.
Recent cases in which recovered Covid-19 patients were infected a second time with a new strain also raises the question of how long vaccines might last.
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