New Delhi | Jagran News Desk: The run-up for the first successful COVID-19 vaccine is already at its fastest pace and several candidates are leading the race. After Pfizer, another US drugmaker Moderna Inc had claimed that its mRNA vaccine candidate provides strong protection, according to preliminary data from the company’s late-stage trials.

Together with Pfizer Inc's vaccine, which is also more than 90 per cent effective, and pending more safety data and regulatory review, the United States could have two vaccines authorized for emergency use in December with as many as 60 million doses of vaccine available this year.

The vaccines, both developed with new technology known as messenger RNA (mRNA), represent powerful tools to fight a pandemic that has infected 54 million people worldwide and killed 1.3 million.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 150 Covid-19 vaccines are presently in development, with around 44 candidates in clinical trials and 11 undergoing late-stage testing.

Let’s take a look at the status of COVID-19 vaccine forerunners:

Moderna

Moderna said its mRNA-1273 experimental vaccine appears to be 94.5 per cent effective — more than that of Pfizer’s and Russia’s Sputnik V.

Moderna's interim analysis was based on 95 infections among trial participants who received the vaccine or a placebo. Only five infections occurred in volunteers who received the vaccine mRNA-1273, which is administered in two shots 28 days apart.

Unlike Pfizer's vaccine, Moderna's shot can be stored at normal fridge temperatures, which should make it easier to distribute, a critical factor as COVID-19 cases are soaring, hitting new records in the United States and pushing some European countries back into lockdowns.

Moderna expects the vaccine to be stable at normal fridge temperatures of 2 to 8 degrees Celsius (36 to 48°F) for 30 days and it can be stored for up to 6 months at -20C.

Pfizer's vaccine must be shipped and stored at -70C, the sort of temperature typical of an Antarctic winter. It can be stored for up to five days at standard refrigerator temperatures, or for up to 15 days in a thermal shipping box.

The data from Moderna's trial involving 30,000 volunteers also showed the vaccine prevented cases of severe COVID-19, a question that still remains with the Pfizer vaccine. Of the 95 cases in Moderna's trial, 11 were severe and all 11 occurred among volunteers who got the placebo.

AstraZeneca-Oxford

According to a Bloomberg report, Serum Institute of India, which is conducting Phase 2 and 3 trials of the Oxford University vaccine, said it was aiming to produce 100 million (10 crore) doses by December 2020.

Serum Institute CEO Adar Poonawalla said the Pune-based firm might get emergency-use authorization by December if late-stage trial data showed that the vaccine candidate provided effective protection from the virus. That initial amount will go to India, Poonawalla said in an interview with Bloomberg.

Poonawalla also said preliminary results have shown that there were no immediate concerns pertaining to the Covishield vaccine. Serum has so far made 40 million doses of the Oxford vaccine in the past two months and aims to start manufacturing Novavax’s contender soon.

Pfizer

While Pfizer claims to be leading the COVID-19 vaccine race after becoming the first company to release preliminary data of late-stage clinical trials, volunteers involved in the testing said that they experienced side effects similar to a “severe hangover” which came with headaches, fever and muscle pain.

The Daily Mail quoted a volunteer saying that she experienced headache, fever and aches all over her body after the first dose and the effects became even worse after the second shot.

However, what needs to be mentioned here is that the vaccine trials were double-blind, meaning that those volunteering in the clinical trials did not know whether they had or had not received the vaccine.

Pfizer is expected to seek US authorisation for emergency use of the vaccine for people aged 16 to 85 in December. To apply for EUA, the firm will need two months of safety data from about half the study’s nearly 44,000 participants, which is expected late this month.

Sputnik V

Russia’s COVID-19 vaccine, Sputnik V, which was granted regulatory approval for a vaccine even before large-scale trials were complete, has already arrived in India for further trials.

Developed by Gamaleya National Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology, the vaccine candidate will be tested by Dr Reddy’s on around 1,500 participants in a Phase 2/3 clinical trial across at least 10 sites.

Russian authorities have claimed that the vaccine candidate was 92 per cent effective in preventing COVID-19 infection and will be available in two forms - liquid, which would have to be stored at minus 18 degrees Celsius and lyophilised (freeze dried), which can be stored at 2-8 degrees Celsius.

Last month, Russia granted regulatory approval to a second COVID-19 vaccine which has been developed by the Vector State Research Centre of Virology and Biotechnology.

Vector's vaccine, dubbed "EpiVacCorona", relies on chemically synthesized peptide antigens of SARS-CoV-2 proteins, conjugated to a carrier protein and adsorbed on an aluminum-containing adjuvant, according to details posted at ClinicalTrials.gov, a database of privately and publicly funded clinical studies conducted around the world.

Unlike Western countries, Russia has given official approval to its COVID-19 vaccines without waiting for the results of large-scale trials in thousands of patients, which are normally required to prove that a drug is safe and effective. That decision has been criticised by scientists in other countries.

Johnson & Johnson

After halting its COVID-19 vaccine trials in October over a safety concern, Johnson & Johnson has said it will spend USD 604 million in expanding its deal with the US government to deploy its single-shot JNJ-78436735 vaccine.

J&J is at present testing the vaccine, which uses a modified adenovirus like the Oxford shot, in adults in a 60,000-volunteer Phase III study. The firm has said that first batches of its candidate could be available as soon as January.

Posted By: Abhinav Gupta