- World Health Organization (WHO) stated that at the moment, there is ‘no silver bullet’ for COVID-19 and that could hold for the future as well.
- The international body advised all countries to precisely implement health measures and guidelines provided by the government and health organization.
- According to the latest draft landscape provided by the WHO on 31 July 2020, there are a total of 165 investigational vaccine candidates under pre-clinical & clinical development with various technologies.
- At present, there are a few vaccine candidates in Phase 3 clinical studies, and there is a possibility we might have an approved vaccine by early next year.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has affected more than 18 million people and taken 691,013 lives as per the World Health Organization as of 4 August 2020 (1:04 PM CEST).
Around the world, the best of human resources are compelled into action to find an effective vaccine to help us succeed over COVID-19 pandemic. Numerous healthcare players, including institutes/universities, are engaged in developing an effective vaccine to combat COVID-19.
There are two stages to battle the ongoing turmoil: first is to find a safe and effective vaccine, and the second is to manufacture and supply the vaccine in scale to meet the global demand. Healthcare players, who are at the late stages of the clinical trial with their potential COVID-19 vaccine investigational candidates, are signing deals with national governments and health agencies in advance to deliver vaccines in bulk after completion of trials.
Moreover, governments are also providing financial aid to healthcare groups with preliminary favourable data to speed up the process of vaccine development.
According to the latest draft landscape provided by the WHO on 31 July 2020, there are a total of 165 investigational vaccine candidates under pre-clinical & clinical trials. Out of these 165, 26 vaccine candidates are in clinical development, and 139 candidates are in pre-clinical development with various technologies.
However, it is possible that some vaccine candidates that are in the early stages of development are not reported in the draft provided by the WHO.
WHO Stated There is ‘no silver bullet’ for COVID-19 at the moment
On 3 August 2020, WHO addressed the media in a virtual press conference and Director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus advised all countries to strictly implement health measures and guidelines provided by the health organization. He added that the government around the world, and citizens should continue to follow the listed guidelines and social distancing and other hygiene norms.
WHO also stated that at present, there is no silver bullet and there might never be one for the pandemic. The message to citizens and governments seemed clear: ‘Do it all’-
- Testing, isolating, treating patients, as well as tracing & quarantining their contacts.
- Informing, empowering, and listening to the communities.
- For people, it is about maintaining social distancing, cleaning hands regularly, wearing a mask, and coughing carefully away from others.
For health professional and frontline workers, the WHO advised to show their solidarity in following national guidelines and safely wearing a mask, whether caring for patients or loved ones, riding on public transport to work, or collecting essentials.
WHO Director-General also stated that if we are wearing a mask, we are sending a powerful message to people around us that we all are together in this. If we act and do it all together, we can save lives as well as livelihoods, WHO stated.
Moreover, the global body also added that several vaccines are now under the late stages of clinical trials (Phase 3), and soon, there could be multiple safe and effective vaccines to combat COVID-19.
Let us now shed some light on healthcare companies who are in the late stages of clinical trials for developing an effective COVID-19:
Moderna’s Phase 3 COVE Study of mRNA-1273 Commences
On 27 July 2020, the clinical-stage biotechnology company Moderna Inc (Nasdaq:MRNA) revealed that the Phase 3 clinical study of its investigational COVID-19 vaccine candidate ‘mRNA-1273’ to combat COVID-19 had started dosing participants.
The trial is known as the COVE study (Coronavirus Efficacy study). Moderna anticipates enrolling ~30k participants in the US for the trial. The late-stage study being conducted in collaboration with BARDA and the NIH.
Moderna remains on track to be capable of providing nearly 500 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine per year, and probably up to 1 billion doses per year, starting in 2021 because of its internal US manufacturing facilities and strategic partnership with Lonza, Ltd.
AstraZeneca & Oxford University’s AZD1222 Vaccine Under Phase 3 Clinical Trials
COVID-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca plc and Oxford University has reported positive interim findings in ongoing Phase 1/2 COV001 trial. The vaccine was well tolerated & produced robust immune responses against the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
The Phase 3 trial study for Oxford’s COVID-19 vaccine is a randomized controlled trial for determining safety, efficacy, as well as immunogenicity of AZD1222. The study commenced in May 2020 and is expected to finish in October 2021.
The trial is aimed to assess whether healthy people in Brazil can be protected from COVID-19 with this new vaccine. Moreover, this study will also give vital information on the safety of the vaccine as well as its capability to produce good immune responses against the novel coronavirus. http://www.isrctn.com/ISRCTN89951424
China’s Sinovac Pursues Bangladesh govt permission for Phase 3 clinical trial of its vaccine
COVID-19 vaccine candidate developed by Sinovac Research and Development Co Ltd, a Chinese company, has applied for government approval for conducting the Phase 3 trial at seven hospitals in Bangladesh. The Company disclosed that it would carry out a Phase 3 trial for COVID-19 vaccine in nearly 4,200 health workers from seven COVID-19 hospitals in Bangladesh.
Moreover, the results of the study will be available in another six months after its administration on individuals. The vaccine would be applied to health workers aged between 18 and 59 years.
Sinopharm Initiates Phase 3 trial of COVID-19 Vaccine in UAE
China-based pharmaceutical company Sinopharm Group Co Ltd has initiated a Phase 3 clinical trial to assess its COVID-19 vaccine candidate in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. The clinical study is being conducted by Sinopharm’s China National Biotec Group (CNBG) in partnership with the Abu Dhabi Government and Abu Dhabi-based artificial intelligence (AI) company G42 Healthcare.
For this trial, the UAE has permitted to enrol as many as 15k participants aged between 18-60 years.
It is hard to say whether WHO is being realistic or a tad pessimistic when the Director-General highlighted that there might never be a silver bullet for the pandemic. Or maybe the global agency wants nations to focus more on managing public health and take measures for disease control. Whatever be the case, the fact that there are a few promising vaccine candidates in late-stage development coupled with the recent findings that the new strains demonstrate little variability indicates that there might be some good news. A ‘silver bullet’ or not, we might see an approved vaccine, possibly at the beginning of 2021, as Dr Anthony Fauci, Director of NIAID, cautiously predicts.