As pharmaceutical companies rush to find a coronavirus vaccine, one pertinent question emerges -- who would receive the first doses? Many world leaders believe that the vaccines should not be patented and that it should be made available for everyone free of charge. Leaders from around 140 countries wrote to the World Health Assembly (WHA), the policy-making body of the World Health Organisation. "Governments and international partners must unite around a global guarantee which ensures that, when a safe and effective vaccine is developed, it is produced rapidly at scale and made available for all people, in all countries, free of charge," the letter to WHA stated.
It also said that the same applies for treatments, diagnostics and other technologies. President of South Africa and Chair of the African Union Cyril Ramaphosa, Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan, President of the Republic of Senegal Macky Sall and President of the Republic of Ghana Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo are some of the signatories, stated UNAIDS.
Sanofi Pasteur that kicked off a storm by saying the US had "the right to the largest pre-order because it invested in taking the risk" has now said that there will be no advance for any particular country.
However, a decision to this end might take a while as experts and researchers still believe that a corona vaccine could be at least a year away. Marco Cavaleri, head of European Medicines Agency said that the beginning of 2021 was an optimistic estimate for the development of a corona vaccine. He added that the EMA is looking at around 115 therapeutics or treatments. WHO chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan said that it could take around five years to get COVID-19 under control. "Let's say we have a vaccine and we're able to cover the world's entire population, which may take, I don't know, three years, four years. So I would say in a four- to five-year timeframe we could be looking at controlling this," she said at an online panel discussion.
Pharma companies are, nevertheless, working towards achieving this. Here's the latest on the development of a coronavirus vaccine:
The Indian government has allocated Rs 100 crore from the PM-CARES fund to support the initiative of producing a COVID vaccine. According to the Department of Biotechnology, there are as many as 25 vaccine development initiatives across the industry, academic institutions and startups that are currently underway. The fund will be utilised under Principal Scientific Advisor K Vijay Raghavan's supervision.
Bill Gates interacted with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday and discussed India's efforts to combat coronavirus and how India could be a key contributor in the efforts towards finding a coronavirus vaccine.
University of Oxford's corona vaccine has crossed an important hurdle -- a recent animal trial showed that ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine was effective in preventing lung damages without any signs of immune-enhanced diseases. Independent experts see this as good news even as human clinical trials are underway.
In yet another trial in Missouri, the FDA asked the lab to test more candidates than originally expected. Twenty of the 40 people who received the COVID vaccine candidate developed some irritation on the injection side or an achy feeling. These irritants are also experienced while taking a flu shot. However, the effectiveness of the vaccine candidate is yet to be figured out.
US-based Novavax has said that they are just weeks away from entering the clinical trial phase. Chief Business officer, John Trizzino, in an interview to WUSA said, "We understand how this vaccine technology works. We understand the body's response to this. And so it provides us confidence that the vaccine development program that we have underway here at Novavax will have a similar result." Novavax recently secured a funding of $388 million from Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI).
A Canadian company based in Quebec, Medicago, said that their COVID-19 vaccine candidate produced a positive antibody response in just 10 days. In a statement, Medicago said, "Once results from a second 'boost' dose are available, Medicago will submit a clinical trial application to Health Canada and an investigational new drug submission with the FDA in the United States to allow for the initiation of human clinical trials this summer." The company said it could produce as many as 120 million doses of the drug every year.