If you’re confused about the progress of the development of a COVID-19 vaccine, there may be a good reason why. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are at least 124 different vaccines in development stages for COVID-19, with at least 10 in clinical trials.
There are risks in accelerating vaccine development, a CBS News report shares, with researchers and developers needing to balance speed with safety.
Five of the vaccine developers have been designated as participants in Operation Warp Speed (OWS). They were selected by the Trump administration as part of a “national program to accelerate the development, manufacturing, and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics.”
The five vaccine candidates are:
- Johnson & Johnson
- AstraZeneca/Oxford University
Organizations included in OWS can receive government funding to develop a COVID-19 vaccine, test it in clinical trials, and manufacture a successful vaccine in the hundreds of millions. The overall goal is to ensure that the vaccine works without serious side effects.
Here are updates on two of the OWS vaccine candidates.
Johnson & Johnson
On June 10, 2020, Johnson & Johnson (J&J) announced that they will begin their early-stage human trials for an in-development coronavirus vaccine during the second half of July.
The company began developing its COVID-19 vaccine in January through the same methodology used in an experimental Ebola vaccine. If all goes well and the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine is found to be both safe and effective, then J&J projects that 600 to 900 million doses could be manufactured and made available by April 2021. The goal is to provide one billion doses by the end of 2021.
This early-stage trial in July 2020 will take place in the United States and Belgium, with 1,045 healthy adults ages 18 to 55 being vaccinated, along with older adults who are at least 65 years old.
On June 11, Moderna shared that it will begin a late-stage human trial in July with 30,000 participants. During Phase 1, 45 healthy volunteers received either a lower dose or a higher one — and in July, each participant will receive 100 micrograms, provided in two shots. Moderna has reported that the vaccine is creating COVID-19 antibodies, which is encouraging.
Moderna is currently in Phase 2, with 600 healthy individuals being monitored, post-vaccine, for a year. The goal will be to review vaccine safety and effectiveness, and this phase will include more people who may be more likely to catch the virus, such as people living in long-term care facilities or in healthcare jobs.
How Many Doses of the Vaccine?
It seems likely that the COVID-19 vaccine will be a two-dose series, possibly with a booster years later. That’s because COVID, being a new virus, is one where people haven’t had the chance to develop antibodies. The first shot would allow the body to recognize this specific virus with the follow-up — perhaps a month later — strengthening the person’s immune response.
Merck — which has two varieties in vaccine development — may be the exception to the rule. They are envisioning a one-shot vaccine.
As of June, COVID-19 seems to be staying relatively stable. If that proves to be true, then it’s likely that people wouldn’t need an annual vaccine the way people annually receive a flu shot. If immunity to COVID-19 fades, then the booster shot may be needed to bolster the immune response again.
Speed of Development
Typically, according to CNET.com, it takes years for a vaccine to be developed. It can even take decades from development to distribution. In the case of COVID, there are more researchers involved than ever before — and this may be why Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in June that he expects “hundreds of millions of doses” to be made available in early 2021. Dr. Fauci is personally involved in several vaccine developments, including Moderna.
Besides the coronavirus vaccines being developed in the United States and United Kingdom, the Chinese company Sinovac is also a viable developer.