Fast Tracking the Vaccine for COVID-19

The news about the rapid spreading and fatality of the Coronavirus haunted the end of the year 2019 and has engulfed the entirety of the year 2020 to this day. Quickly responding to the onset of the pandemic, right from January 2020 researchers around the world began wielding their ingenuity to develop vaccines against the coronavirus. As of now, 165 vaccines are being developed, of which 27 have reached the human trials stage [1].

Talking about stages, there are time-tested steps that constitute the development cycle of any vaccine. Initially, the vaccine is tested on animals like mice, monkeys, etc., to ascertain its ability to create an immune response. If the vaccine produces a satisfactory immune response. It is then tried on a limited number of people to “test safety and dosage as well as to confirm that it stimulates the immune system” [1].

Later, the vaccine is tested on hundreds of people from various groups like children and aged people to observe the different traits of reactions from each group. After confirming that the vaccine does not have any abnormal adverse effects on any of the groups, it is administered to thousands of people “to see how many become infected, compared with volunteers who received a placebo” [1].

Based on the outcome of the final trial, the vaccine is either approved or rejected by the regulators in the respective countries. But, “during a pandemic, a vaccine may receive emergency use authorization before getting formal approval”, and this is what has happened in many cases of the race to create a vaccine for coronavirus. In certain cases, the phases are also combined to expedite the process of finalizing a vaccine.

Presently, two experimental vaccines have produced “strong immune reactions in people involved in the studies. And neither produced serious unwanted effects” [2]. Of the two vaccines, “the most promising one” [2]comes from a partnership between Oxford University in Britain and a British-Swedish multinational pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical company. Reports reveal that the vaccine has been administered to more than 10,000 volunteers in Britain, Brazil, and South Africa. It says 30,000 people in the United States are to receive the experimental vaccine next week. [2]

This effort is closely followed by the collaborated efforts of a pioneering biopharmaceutical company in Tianjin, China, and the Chinese military. Reports claim that the vaccine has been tested on “508 healthy volunteers who received one treatment each”, and that “most of those tested showed a good immune reaction” [2].

As per Naor Bar-Zeev and William Moss, who are vaccine experts from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Maryland, the "Overall, the results of both trials are broadly similar and promising, notwithstanding differences in the vector, in the geographical locations of the populations studied, and the neutralisation assays used" [3]. Dr. Peter Hotez, an infectious diseases expert, observed that “the first vaccines may not be our best vaccines, and that it would probably take another year to produce all the necessary evidence that the new coronavirus vaccines are safe and effective” [2].

In India, according to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), “around seven companies and research institutions are working on developing a vaccine candidate using different technological platforms and approaches” [4]. As the wait for the vaccine is overshooting the immediacy of the requirement for a vaccine, the vaccine manufacturers

are looking at the speeding up of regulatory processes as the “biological aspects—like monitoring the immune response in a heterogeneous population, fixing dosage and schedules of vaccine administration, and looking out for possibilities of other long-term adverse reactions to the vaccine—cannot be rushed” [4].

Given the unpredictable state of affairs that is being hurled to existence by the pandemic on a day to day basis, vaccine manufacturers across the globe are united in being prepared for changes to take on every challenge in their course of action. Without compromising on any stage involved in the process of making a vaccine, the researchers are also addressing the time factor as a priority to quickly develop a vaccine against the coronavirus. The entire world looks up to the researchers involved in the development of the vaccines with great hope, and we are all set to see positive results before the end of 2020 or by early 2021.



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