How Close Is the UK To Developing A COVID-19 Vaccine?

  • Jun 07, 2020 BST
  • Team Kalkine
How Close Is the UK To Developing A COVID-19 Vaccine?

The pandemic COVID-19 has severely impacted the whole world, as there has been no cure to the disease yet,  but now the UK needs to defeat the coronavirus pandemic else it will carry on wrecking huge personal, economic and social losses across the nation, with the number of Corona infected cases crossing 2.8 lakh as on June 6.

There has been work going on across the globe to tame the virus if we talk about the country, it is leading the COVID-19 vaccine development with Oxford University, which is now conducting its next round of human clinical trials in Brazil, where the infection rate is still high. The first phase of trials began in April on 1,000 human volunteers across southern England.

The University is jointly developing the vaccine in association with the pharma major AstraZeneca Plc which plans to double its capacity to two billion doses for producing this yet to be discovered COVID-19 vaccine, known as AZD1222, with a chemical composition of ChAdOx1 nCoV-19. Both the organisation had announced an agreement regarding the same on April 30 this year. The pharmaceutical company has already struck many deals with various countries for the same. It has been stated that half of the vaccine doses will be supplied to low-income nations.

Professor Sir John Bell at the Oxford University stated that results of a human trial of a coronavirus vaccine would come out by mid-June, and the next challenge will be to manufacture it at a large scale so that it is available in the desired quantity. AstraZeneca has already started producing the AZD1222 vaccine to meet the anticipated high demand. It plans to supply the corona vaccine by this autumn in September.

The company had received £820 million from the US Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority towards developing the Oxford University’s vaccine in May this year.

Once the vaccine is developed, the company will provide UK with 100 million doses of the same out of which 30 million will be available by this September itself, while it has also agreed to deliver 300 million shots of the same to the US as well. However, at the same time, Professor Robin Shattock from the Imperial College London feels that the vaccine may not be readily available for mass usage until the beginning of 2021.

In the meantime, UK held a Global Vaccine Summit on June 4, where AstraZeneca announced that it would provide 300 million doses of the vaccine to GAVI (Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization), ensuring equitable access, for which the company has struck a $750 million deal jointly with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and GAVI.  GAVI is a global organisation aimed at improving vaccine access for children living in poor countries. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are funding GAVI and CEPI so that low-income nations can access the vaccine. At the Global Vaccine Summit, Boris Johnson urged global leaders to raise £5.9 billion to dispense vaccines to the poor for infectious diseases.

While the UK is among the first countries where a corona vaccine trial has moved into a mid-stage of development, the US is not far behind.

With the UK and US making significant investments for developing the vaccine, it is likely that the two will also have priority access to the same. US biotechnology giant Moderna Inc has also begun Stage II trials of its Coronavirus vaccine with a separate chemical composition of mRNA-1273.  The final phase of trials will be beginning this July, involving around 30,000 people in the 18-55 year age-group. The result of the trials will be available by November or December this year. Moderna is starting with the production of the vaccine under trail and plans to produce about 100 million doses by that time.

The UK is not just banking on the Oxford University to find a vaccine for corona flu. It is exploring other options as well. A UK – India partnership comprising of a grouping of Serum Institute, MIT, Spy Biotech from UK and Gates Foundation is developing a COVID-19 vaccine using the new spy-tag technology.

Oxford Nanopore is also working with Indian scientific institutions on analysing coronavirus samples. It is trying to develop a small-sized coronavirus test machine which could process up to 30,000 samples daily. To put it simply, it can test say an entire school or police force or people using means of public transport in a fast-track manner.

Earlier, Pascal Soriot, AstraZeneca's CEO, had mentioned that his company is working round the clock to come up with a broad and equitable access of the potential vaccine at zero profit. However, there is not going to be any clarity regarding the price of the potential vaccine in the UK, at least until AZD1222 actually develops, despite the chief executive’s promise that it will be sold at the cost price. But the record share price jump in May after the announcement of its collaboration with Oxford may not really be indicative of the same.

Looking a bit closer at the AstraZeneca’s financial performance, it displayed a 16 percent (17 per cent CER basis) growth in its total revenue that amounted to $6,354 million in Q1 2020, over the same period last year. It is notable that the performance of the new medicines improved by 47 percent to garner a $2,986 million in revenue during the same period. As a response to corona pandemic, AstraZeneca has upped its digital activities like the remote connection with healthcare professionals and pharmacies. AstraZeneca plc (LON: AZN) share last traded at GBX 8,427.00, down 1.21 percent on June 5, 2020.

To sum up, nobody is safe from the coronavirus until a vaccine is discovered and is ready to be administered to the common man at an affordable rate. While the UK is trying its level best through its hefty funding and sincere efforts through Oxford University for developing the vaccine and the pharma major AstraZeneca to produce the same, we will have to wait and watch till the end of August this year, when the results of the Oxford University AZD1222 trails are out. 



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