CAPE TOWN- Researchers around the world are developing more than 165 vaccines against Covid-19, and 31 vaccines are in human trials. Many scientists and doctors say the race for a vaccine will bear fruit as early as January 2021.
A physician-scientist and infectious diseases specialist at the University of Virginia, Professor William Petri says that he is optimistic about the delivery of a Covid-19 vaccine in the months to come.
In an article published on The Conversation, Petri lists seven reasons why researchers are close to finding a vaccine.
1. Human immune system cures Covid-19
Petri says that the recovery rate for all Covid-19 cases is increasing and when a patient recovers from the infection, and the virus is cleared from the body. Some of those who have had COVID-19 may have low levels of virus in the body for up to three months after infection. But in most cases, these individuals can no longer transmit the virus to other people 10 days after first becoming sick.
2. We know how to make a safe vaccine
For researchers to understand the safety of a new Covid-19 vaccine, they need to understand the potential vaccine side effects and how to avoid them. One side effects include when antibodies don’t neutralize the virus but instead allow it to enter into cells via a receptor intended for antibodies. Another side effect posed by some vaccines is an allergic reaction that causes inflammation in the lung. However, researchers have now learned how to design vaccines to avoid this allergic response.
3. Several different vaccines in development
Drug companies including Pfizer and Moderna both began late-stage trials last month for potential Covid-19 vaccines, which are both expected to include up to 30,000 participants. Russia launched the world’s first potential Covid-19 vaccine earlier this month, however the country has not published any findings from its vaccine trials; a great concern for health experts and the World Health Organisation (WHO).
4. Vaccines passing through phase I and II trials
Phase I and phase II trials test if a vaccine is safe and induces an immune response. Moderna, Oxford and Chinese company CanSino have all proven the safety of their vaccines in their phase I and phase II trials.
5. Phase III clinical trials are underway
Phase III of the trial is the final step in vaccine development process. Thousands of individuals are vaccinated first to determine if it works to prevent infection with SARS-CoV-2, and that it is safe.
6. Accelerating vaccine production and deployment
The Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed, is an initiative to speed up vaccine work that aims to deliver 300 million doses of a safe and effective shot by January 1.
Petri says the advantage of the initiative is that once a vaccine is proven safe in phase III trials, a stockpile of it will already exist and it can be distributed immediately without compromising full assessment of safety and efficacy.
7. Vaccine distributors are being contracted now
In the US, the largest vaccine distributor, McKesson Corp, has already been contracted to distribute a Covid-19 vaccine to sites – including clinics and hospitals – where the vaccine will be administered.
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