Pharmaceutical companies have made significant progress in their search for a coronavirus vaccine. However, the more significant bit is the time of the arrival of a COVID-19 vaccine. If WHO scientists Soumya Swaminathan is to be believed the wait could be for as long as a year. During a press conference on Saturday, Swaminathan said, "Eight vaccines are being developed by different companies in India. Normally, it takes five to ten years to develop a vaccine. However, due to the pandemic, it will now take up to one and half years at least."
But concerns abound as a new strain might throw the spanner in the works. Malaysia recently discovered a new strain of coronavirus that is said to be 10 times more infectious. That strain, D614G, was predominantly found in the European countries and the US. The strain was detected in a cluster that emerged from an Indian restaurateur who violated the 14-day quarantine order upon arrival from India. The strain was also found in a cluster of people arriving from the Philippines. "People need to be wary and take greater precautions because this strain has now been found in Malaysia," said the country's Director-General of Health Noor Hisham Abdullah. Abdullah also expressed concerns over the efficacy of the coronavirus vaccine in the works due to the new strain.
Nevertheless, coronavirus vaccine trials are progressing at full speed. In fact, in his Independence Day speech, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that India is currently testing three COVID-19 vaccines. When approved, the country would start production of the candidates.
Here are the latest developments on coronavirus vaccine:
Russia's Sputnik V: Russia has produced the first batch of COVID-19 vaccine, Sputnik V, the health ministry said hours after they started manufacturing. The country said that the coronavirus vaccine will be rolled out by end of month. President Vladimir Putin has assured the public that it is safe, adding that one of his daughters had taken it as a volunteer and felt good afterwards. Moscow's Gamaleya Institute that developed the vaccine had previously said that Russia would be produce about 5 million doses a month by December-January.
However concerns over the accelerated efforts of the Russians remain. Some scientists believe that the country is putting national prestige before safety amid the global race to develop a vaccine against the disease.
CanSino: The Chinese vaccine specialist has won a patent approval from Beijing for its coronavirus candidate, Ad5-nCOV. It is the first COVID-19 vaccine patent granted by China, state-owned newspaper People's Daily reported on Sunday. China's National Intellectual Property Administration said that the patent was issued on August 11. Saudi Arabia said this month it plans to begin Phase III clinical trials for the CanSino vaccine. CanSino has said it is also in talks with Russia, Brazil and Chile to launch Phase III trials in those countries.
CureVac: German biotech firm has said that it does not rule out a speedy approval process for its coronavirus vaccine candidate. The company said on Friday that it expects to put its vaccine on the market by mid-2021. Considering the push for speedy approval suggests that the company is aiming for an earlier release date. "We are not ruling out accelerated approval, but this can only be achieved in close cooperation with the authorities," said CEO Franz-Werner Haas. CureVac is backed by Microsoft founder Bill Gates.
AstraZeneca: Drugmaker AstraZeneca has signed an agreement with the European Union to deliver 400 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine for no profit. Under the agreement, EU countries would be able to access the coronavirus vaccine in an equitable manner. The drugmaker's deal is bigger than other supply arrangements inked with other governments till date but smaller than the licensing agreement it has with Serum Institute of India for 1 billion doses.