While the pandemic is raging all over the world, to date there are 15 million officially confirmed cases and 617 victims (but the numbers are estimated to be much more alarming), the world of politics seems more than ever incapable of giving an adequate response to the problem. The wave of infections therefore does not seem destined to subside any time soon, with new outbreaks exploding basically everywhere, every day, on a more or less massive scale.
Looks like the only solution is a vaccine, but this is nothing new. There are in fact several ongoing trials, in different countries, and some of these march towards a solution of the problem at a speed that is almost unbelievable.
Perhaps not everybody knows that a vaccine commonly takes up to ten years of studies and research to be ready to be put on the market, yet some very encouraging results are already coming from the country where it all started. In China, in fact, the second phase of the trial has recently been successfully concluded. Scientists are studying a vaccine based on an attenuated adenovirus, that is, a common cold virus, “weakened” to allow a safer experimentation. The test performed on more than 500 patients has shown that the body’s immune response is good, so phase III of the human trial could be started.
In Europe, the research conducted by the Jenner Institute of the University of Oxford, in collaboration with the Italian Irbm of Pomezia, started in April on a sample of 1.077 healthy adult subjects, aged 18 to 55, with an average age of 35.
According to the scientific journal The Lancet, which published the first results of this research, the ChAdOx1 vaccine, almost two months after the start of the trial,
“induced a strong immune and antibody response.”
The same journal also reads that
“a single dose led to the quadrupling of antibodies against SarsCov2 in 95% of the participants, one month after the administration of the vaccine.”
Phase II of the same experimentation involved a larger sample, up to 10.200 people in the age group ranging from 56 to 69, together with subjects over 70 and children aged 5 to 12. Again, the results appeared promising.
AstraZeneca as well, the global biopharmaceutical which will produce and distribute the Anglo/Italian vaccine, has announced that
“the neutralizing activity against SarsCov2 was highlighted in 91% of the participants in the trial, one month after the vaccination, and in 100% of the participants who received a second dose.”
This means that it may be necessary to administer the vaccine in two stages, which could complicate the logistical aspect of the distributions, but at the moment this is only a hypothesis that has not yet been confirmed.
Phase III of the trial, which began just a few days ago and is currently underway, involves an even larger sample of 30–40 thousand subjects of all ages, including people with pre-existing diseases, chosen among volunteers from four countries: Great Britain, Brazil, South Africa and on a later stage also the United States. Results are expected by the end of September which, if positive as they have been up to now, will kick start the phase IV of approval and marketing of the vaccine.
It is therefore very likely that by the end of 2020, millions of doses of an effective, affordable and safe vaccine will be distributed worldwide.
According to the Oxford University, in fact, “AstraZeneca remain committed to fulfilling their commitment for broad and equitable access to the vaccine, should late-stage clinical trials prove successful. So far, commitments to supply more than 2 billion doses of the vaccine have been agreed with the UK, US, Europe’s Inclusive Vaccines Alliance (IVA), the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness (CEPI), Gavi the Vaccine Alliance and Serum Institute of India.”
Given the urgency, the search for the SarsCovid-19 vaccine can be defined anomalous, according to common standards, which means it was conducted much faster than usual, also thanks to a massive investment of £84 million of the UK Government. Among the other things this means that even with the vaccine on the market, the experimentation will not stop and the tests will go on.
Meanwhile, in the USA, the Massachusetts biotechnology company Moderna is carrying out yet another research which, although not at such an advanced stage, has also provided promising results.