When will the Coronavirus Vaccine (COVID-19) be Available?
The recent terrifying Covid-19 outbreak is like a wake-up bell for the human world. People realize that even the most aggressive preventive measures only slow the rate of spread but cannot completely eliminate the threat from COVID-19. Although human clinical trials will soon be conducted, the prospect of a global application of the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine still faces many challenges.
Since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 to be a global pandemic, the preparation of vaccines against coronavirus has immediately become the focus of public attention.
About 35 research organizations and businesses are racing against time to produce a vaccine that is expected worldwide. Notably, Moderna Biotechnology Company (USA), in cooperation with the US National Institutes of Health, produced the first batch of vaccines in February and began conducting human trials with financial support from Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI).
Besides, scientists have also prepared in advance. Specifically, after the coronavirus strain that causes Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), the study of the prototype virus is focused on promoting and investing.
The Guardian quoted CEPI CEO Richard Hatchett: "The fast speed of vaccine modulation is due to the investment and knowledge of previous coronavirus vaccines."
However, dealing with a new virus strain has never been easy. Manufacturers are struggling to approach the problem in a "do it and try" method based on the existing knowledge combined with more advanced research.
Typically, vaccines are prepared based on the same pharmacokinetic principle: using antigens to stimulate the immune mechanism against pathogens. However, this method has the disadvantage that the antigens are not fully compatible with the body of all individuals. Meanwhile, instead of limiting the disease, the vaccine makes the body more susceptible to infection in more serious ways.
Therefore, a series of more modern methods are brought in instead. For example, the Novavax unit is adopting a "recombinant" vaccine strategy based on the principle of incompletely recombining linked genes to create new gametes. CureVac and Moderna, meanwhile, make vaccines from the genetic code of the viral genome.
According to CEPI, investments in vaccine manufacturing projects conducted by Novaxax and Oxford University amounted to $4.4 million. The head of the organization, Mr. Hatchett, said that diversity is the key to success, especially when the vaccine production process is at an extremely difficult stage - the stage of clinical trials in humans.
Fast is not Always Good
Successful clinical trials are essential for the vaccine to be approved and widely used. But before that, manufacturers had to overcome three milestones including test the vaccine on dozens of healthy volunteers and track the side effects; test the efficacy of the vaccine on several hundred people in areas affected by the disease and eventually a similar trial on several thousand patient samples.
"Not every horse that leaves the starting line can finish the race," The Guardian quoted the head of the Sabin Vaccine Institute, Mr. Bruce Gellin.
This statement is not entirely a reflection of the negative because clinical trials will help eliminate unsafe and ineffective vaccines. According to Mr. Gellin, the best way to limit the risk from new vaccines is to be willing to conduct thorough clinical trials, detect weaknesses and make reasonable adjustments.
A prime example of the correctness of this thesis is the fact that the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) urgently prepared a vaccine for respiratory syncytial virus in children in 1960. At that time, as a precaution, the vaccine causes serious infections, even leading to 2 deaths.
Therefore, the process of making a vaccine successfully and fully approved can take more than 10 years. This explains Trump's statement on March 2 that the Covid-19 vaccine completed by the end of this year is impossible.
Annelies Wilder-Smith, a professor at London's College of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, frankly said the vaccine being tested would not be ready by a year and a half.
A Long Way to Have Complete Covid-19 Vaccine
After approval, producing a vaccine in large quantities is also a problem because manufacturers do not have enough resources to implement this. The vaccine development process is inherently high in financial risk, so few units produce large quantities without certainty about the effectiveness of the new preparation.
CEPI and similar organizations are actively working to support vaccine preparation units in this regard. Specifically, CEPI plans to both develop the COVID-19 vaccine and boost its production capacity through a $2 billion donation.
However, the post-approval phase is still rife with challenges. Jonathan Quick of Duke University, North Carolina - author of "The End of a Pandemic" (2018) said: "Manufacturing a vaccine that is safe and effective is only 1/3 of the road of global immunization project only. The challenges of biological research and production technology are only initial difficulties. New political institutions and economic systems are bigger barriers. ”
Access to vaccines by everyone in the world is a big challenge for countries, especially when many nations are still struggling to develop a treatment process. For example, the UK will prioritize vaccinations for health workers, social care workers, and vulnerable groups in the event of an outbreak. However, if countries compete for a scarce supply, how will the UK fulfill those desires?
Develop a Fair Distribution Strategy
Pandemics often target vulnerable countries with weak health systems. Therefore, the imbalance between demand and purchasing power can absolutely occur when the vaccine is widely produced.
WHO has called on governments, charities and vaccine manufacturers to work together to develop a fair distribution strategy. Many organizations such as GAVI and the Vaccine Alliance also offer initiatives to donate and support developing countries.
However, each pandemic is a variable and WHO cannot bind all countries committed to future unknowns.
Professor Wilder-Smith gave an optimistic view: "This pandemic may peak and decline before we produce the vaccine." The prospect of how to resolve this public health crisis is still quite vague. Until it's over, all we should do is take responsibility for ourselves and the community to minimize the spread of the virus.
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