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- Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca’s respective COVID-19 vaccines were found to have reduced hospitalization in the UK.
- The two vaccines also proved effective against the contagious UK variant of coronavirus.
- After overcoming challenges related to mass production and distribution, both vaccines were rolled out successfully and administered in many countries.
COVID-19 vaccines are the escape route for the world from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that has left millions of people dead and impacted all facets of life.
Although, the development of vaccines is a prolonged process and usually takes several years, this time, with the pandemic unleashing havoc of cataclysmic proportions, the world had less time at its disposal. Hence, a bevy of scientists, companies, and governments raced against the clock to develop COVID-19 vaccines and made them available within less than a year.
The development process wasn’t without its fair share of challenges, including adverse events that led to a temporary halt in clinical studies. However, with multiple regulatory investigations, companies resumed clinical trials and launched their vaccines successfully to combat the ongoing pandemic.
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The emergence of the new strains of coronavirus in many countries sparked new fears among scientists and vaccine developers. Whether the approved vaccines could provide adequate protection against the new strains was the quintessential question experts were grappling with.
Scientists and researchers are investigating the approved vaccines against the new variants of the coronavirus, and interestingly, studies have revealed that the current vaccines are effective against some of these strains.
With this backdrop, let us look at the winners in the race to combat the COVID-19 pandemic-
Oxford-AstraZeneca’s vaccine reduces patient hospitalizations in the UK
Oxford-AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine demonstrated 90% effectiveness under a single dosing regimen, and overall, the vaccination showed an average efficacy of 70%.
According to some media reports, preliminary results from a study in Scotland found that the Oxford-AstraZeneca Plc (LON:AZN) shot reduced hospital admissions by up to 94%, and the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine lowered hospitalization by up to 85%, four weeks after the administration of the first dose.
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Temporary halt in clinical studies: What was the cause?
In September 2020, AstraZeneca revealed the temporary suspension of its Phase 3 clinical trials due to an unexplained adverse event at the UK trial site. After some confirmatory studies, regulatory authorities found that it was safe to resume the trial. Following the clearance, the late-stage study recommenced at all clinical trials site.
What’s the latest development on AZD1222?
On 15 February 2021, the World Health Organization (WHO) gave the green light to the COVID-19 vaccine of Oxford-AstraZeneca, providing it with emergency use authorization (EMA). AstraZeneca is committed to making its COVID-19 vaccine available to as many nations as possible without any profit during the pandemic period. AstraZeneca was the first global pharmaceutical player to join the COVAX facility in June 2020.
Israeli study demonstrates Pfizer-BioNTech shot stops COVID-19 spread
The Israeli health authority and the two companies worked on a preliminary observation analysis with the results showing that the vaccine 99% effective in preventing virus-related deaths. While the results aren’t peer-reviewed yet, the promising data increases the optimism around the vaccine’s potency.
Pfizer Inc (NYSE:PFE) and BioNTech SE (NASDAQ:BNTX) had rolled out their COVID-19 vaccine at Israel’s national immunization program that started on 20 December 2020. Pfizer-BioNTech’s jab was found to be 95% effective against COVID-19.
Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine has prevented the majority of recipients in Israel from becoming infected with the coronavirus. As per media reports, scientists have stated that the vaccine provided the first real-world indication that this immunization will reduce transmission of infection and could also lead to herd immunity.
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Early challenges related to the supply chain and distribution
Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine needs to be stored at sub-zero temperatures, and thus, there were significant distribution challenges before the vaccine rollout.
To fix this logistic problem, Pfizer designed a special box to transport its COVID-19 vaccine. The boxes would hold a couple of hundred glass vials, and each vial will have 10 to 20 doses of vaccine.
Pfizer global supply communications manager, Francesca Marzullo, said that the Company would utilize its cold storage chain management capability to meet its vaccine’s storage requirements. Ms Marzullo added that Pfizer would also use temperature-controlled thermal shippers for its vaccine distribution. These shippers use dry ice to maintain storage temperatures of almost -70°C for nearly ten days.
What’s the latest update on BNT162b2?
On 18 February 2021, Pfizer and BioNTech updated the market that the companies have commenced clinical trials of the COVID-19 vaccines in healthy pregnant women aged 18 and above. The first participants have been administered the jab in a global Phase 2/3 clinical trial to assess the immunogenicity, safety, and tolerability of BNT162b2 in pregnant women.
Moreover, the partners expect to commence additional clinical studies in children between 5-11 years over the next couple of months and in children younger than five years, later in 2021.
The companies are also planning to further evaluate the vaccine in people having compromised immune systems.
Some media reports indicated that the studies on two shots of Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine and one shot of Oxford-AstraZeneca injection demonstrated effectiveness against the more infectious variants of SARS-CoV-2 that started in the UK and spread globally.