While the coronavirus continues to cause devastation worldwide, researchers are racing to develop a vaccine. Here’s the latest coronavirus news, vaccine development, and trial information.
In this coronavirus news vaccine article:
Coronavirus News Vaccine Developments
What Is a Vaccine?
Vaccines are a type of preventative medicine that increases protection against certain diseases. It uses the body’s natural defenses to build immunity against infection.
Vaccines often contain weakened viruses or bacteria that resemble disease-causing microorganisms. These microorganisms mimic infection without causing illness. Consequently, the immune system produces T-lymphocytes, B-lymphocytes, and macrophages to fight the disease. In other words, it trains the immune system to recognize pathogens and defend against them before they cause an infection.
There are various types of vaccines, and some are combinations of different types:
- Inactivated vaccines contain dead microorganisms that stimulate an immune response.
- Non-replicating viral vector vaccines use modified viruses such as adenoviruses to deliver antigens to specific target cells.
- RNA vaccines copy genetic material from a virus to mimic an infection, rather than use the virus itself.
- Subunit vaccines use virus proteins to trigger an immune response.
It takes the body a while to develop immunity against diseases, and you won’t necessarily stay immune for life. Some vaccines require a booster every couple of years.
Vaccine Development Process
Developing a safe and effective vaccine may take 15 years or more because it involves extensive research and testing.
First, researchers identify toxins and substances, known as antigens, that may cause an immune response. During this stage of development, researchers are looking for antigens with the potential to prevent a specific disease.
The preclinical stage comes next and involves testing the potential vaccine to determine if it produces an immune response. Initially, researchers experiment using cells and then move on to animal testing. Besides immune response, animal testing may include vaccinating animals and then exposing them to the disease. Only a few vaccines trigger a big enough immune response to sanction further testing.
Next, the manufacturer applies to the FDA for an Investigational New Drug (IND). Once the application is approved, clinical trials begin.
Clinical Trial Phases
Phase 1: A small number of healthy individuals, usually less than 100, receive the vaccine to determine how it acts, and look for side effects. It can take several months, and roughly 70% of vaccines go on to the next phase of testing.
Phase 2: Several hundred people receive the vaccine, and some may be at risk of contracting the disease. It takes up to two years for researchers to assess the drug’s safety, effectiveness, and dosage before it can progress to the final phase. Only a third of vaccines progress.
Phase 3: The final stage involves large-scale testing, takes between 1 and 4 years, and up to 3000 people get tested, to determine the vaccine’s safety. It also provides more evidence of the effectiveness and side effects.
After successful trials, the FDA then evaluates the trial data and examines manufacturing facilities before approving a new vaccine.
The FDA continues to monitor the vaccine after approval for purity and safety.
Coronavirus News Vaccine Updates
While some experts believe a vaccine will be available in a couple of months, it will most likely take much longer. According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of NIAID, if initial trials go well, a vaccine may be available in under two years.
Over a hundred vaccines are in preclinical stage development around the world. Additionally, institutions are evaluating existing vaccines that could potentially prevent COVID-19. Researchers think, Bacille Calmette-Guérin vaccine (BCG) used to prevent tuberculosis, might protect healthcare workers from contracting the virus.
Three vaccines in the U.S. are in clinical trials, and seven more have started human testing worldwide.
Overview of Current Clinical Trials
Moderna Inc: In partnership with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), Moderna Inc developed a messenger RNA (mRNA-1273) vaccine that replicates genetic material from the virus. Moderna Inc has developed this type of vaccine before, and earlier studies determined its safety. Trials began in March, and the vaccine produced an immune response in some trial participants. The FDA has approved phase 2 trails.
Inovio: Before the COVID-19 outbreak, Inovio was developing a DNA vaccine for MERS, caused by another coronavirus. Therefore the company could develop a potential vaccine, called INO-4800, for the novel coronavirus quickly. The U.S. Department of Defense, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations are funding the project. Clinical trials started in April.
Novavax: The company, with support from the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, developed a subunit vaccine with coronavirus proteins (NVX-CoV2373). Hepatitis B, shingles, and human papillomavirus infection (HPV) vaccines are similar.
Pfizer and BioNTech: Phase 1 clinical trials involve testing four separate varieties of an RNA vaccine, similar to the Inovio and Moderna Inc vaccines.
CanSino Biological Inc.: The Beijing-based company is testing Ad5-nCoV, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine. It doesn’t contain the coronavirus, but it does contain coronavirus proteins.
University of Oxford: In late April, the university began trials for a non-replicating viral vector vaccine with 1000 participants. According to officials, the vaccine has an 80% chance of success, and they hope to have it ready by September.
Various institutions in China are also conducting clinical trials with inactivated coronavirus vaccines. Clinical trials are in phase 1 and 2.
Despite many clinical trials, it could still take more than a year before the first vaccine is ready. The FDA has relaxed some regulations to fast-track vaccine development, and researchers are making progress. Visit our website for more coronavirus news, vaccine development, and treatment options.