COVID-19 Three Vaccine Race: What You Need to Know About Each Drug
Already three developers of vaccines for COVID-19, which are in the final stages of clinical trials, have made optimistic statements about the incredible effectiveness of their drug. The publication told more about each of them. with the BBC.
Messages published one after another literally within a week, a bit like a race ahead of the curve - records were broken one after another.
And although all three statements are made on the basis of preliminary results, it seems that the main candidates for early access to the finals have been determined - and so far their declared effectiveness exceeds even the most optimistic forecasts.
WHO experts said they would consider any vaccine to be successful if its effectiveness exceeds 70%.
The American authorities announced their readiness to purchase drugs that give at least 50% protection against the virus (approximately the same effectiveness as the flu vaccine). The European Medical Agency has hinted that they are ready to consider even less effective drugs.
The fact that there is not much in common between the three vaccines adds optimism, which means that the drugs are more likely not to compete with each other, but to complement each other.
The three leaders promising to end the pandemic, which has claimed more than 1,3 million lives worldwide, turned out to be quite motley.
The first to announce its success was Pfizer, an American pharmaceutical giant with a century and a half history, which earned millions of dollars during the Second World War in the production of penicillin.
According to preliminary data from clinical trials, their vaccine (BNT162b2) provides 90 percent protection against COVID-19.
This is a very good indicator: it means that out of every 100 people who get vaccinated, 90 will develop stable immunity. In other words, vaccination reduces the risk of infection by about 10 times.
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However, the very next day Russian scientists from the Gamaleya Center stated that their Sputnik V vaccine provides even more effective protection - 92%.
Russian developers can also boast a century-old history - however, unlike the previous favorite, Sputnik was created with budget money. NITsEM named after Gamaleya is part of the structure of the Russian Ministry of Health, and the development was financed by the state fund RDIF.
The three leaders are closed by the innovative company Moderna, which has been operating on the biotechnology market for only 10 years and has not registered a single drug.
On the one hand, this is not surprising: the development of this company is based solely on the use of messenger RNA, and not a single drug created using this technology has yet been approved for vaccination of people.
On the other hand, it is all the more impressive that the effectiveness of the innovative mRNA-1273 vaccine, according to preliminary data, even higher - 94,5%.
Can these statements be trusted
All three drugs are still undergoing large-scale clinical trials, which will not be completed until May. So conclusions about the effectiveness of vaccines are based on preliminary analysis of the data - however, the sample is different for all companies.
To determine whether a vaccine protects against COVID-19, you need to wait until a sufficient number of vaccinated volunteers have become infected with the virus, and compare - who of them actually received a shot of the vaccine, and who was injected with a placebo. So it is not surprising that the statements almost coincided in time: the season of colds is in full swing.
The most detailed (and therefore the most reliable) data so far has been provided by Moderna.
Of the 30 thousand volunteers participating in the experiment, 19 people were diagnosed with Covid-95. 90 patients were from the control group (that is, those who received a placebo) and only five from the experimental group.
Scientists are especially pleased by the fact that among those who were injected with the real vaccine, there is not a single serious patient: all 11 serious cases of the disease are in volunteers who received a placebo.
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Pfizer's statement was made on the basis of 94 cases (the total number of participants in the trials is 40 thousand), of which, as experts have already calculated, no more than eight people received the real vaccine.
The company promised to provide detailed statistics later: it will be more confident about the effectiveness when the number of patients reaches 164.
But the conclusion about the effectiveness of the Russian vaccine was made based on the results of only 20 infections, of which - again, according to experts' estimates - four received the real drug, so the probability of error here is much higher.
In addition, out of 40 thousand planned volunteers, only 20 thousand have been vaccinated with Sputnik so far, which means that by the end of the tests, the indicators may change dramatically.
When to wait for the vaccine
Pfizer said it is ready to deliver 50 million doses by New Year. This is enough for 25 million people, since each one needs to be vaccinated with two injections (three weeks apart).
Given that the drug is being tested in six countries (Argentina, Brazil, Germany, the United States, Turkey and South Africa), approximately 4 million people can be vaccinated in each of them.
Who will get the vaccine in the first place, the authorities of the countries will decide on their own, however, logistics impose significant restrictions here. The fact is that the Pfizer vaccine must be stored at a very low temperature, around -70 degrees Celsius.
The company has already chartered planes from several transport companies to deliver the drug, but at the moment the vaccine is available in boxes of 4000 doses, and these boxes can be opened no more than twice a day.
This means that it makes sense to send the first batch only to the largest clinics in large metropolitan cities, such as New York or Rio de Janeiro. How to organize delivery to small medical practices (say, in rural areas) is still unclear.
Sputnik V is much better suited for these purposes. The Russian vaccine is produced in dry (freeze-dried) form, so it is much easier to deliver it anywhere - both to remote areas in the north and to hot tropical countries.
Taking into account this peculiarity of the drug, it is logical to assume that the countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America will become its main sales market.
RDIF reports that it has already received bids for the purchase of Sputnik from 50 countries - a total of 1,2 billion doses. For vaccination, two doses of the drug must also be administered, so we are talking about 600 million people.
The Russian vaccine is planned to be produced abroad: for example, production in South Korea should be launched in December. The promised capacity is 150 million doses per year.
Moderna also promises to launch its vaccine into mass production by mid-December and will have 20 million doses of the drug by the end of the year. With two injections for each, this should be enough for 10 million people.
The vaccine does not require special storage conditions: it can easily stay in a regular refrigerator for a month, in a freezer - up to six months. By the end of 2021, the company intends to release 500 million doses and even announced its readiness to reach the level of 1 billion doses annually, subject to the availability of starting materials.
There is no talk of any orders from abroad yet. Unlike Pfizer, which tests the vaccine for its own money, Moderna is fulfilling an order from the American authorities: research on the drug was funded from the budget. So, first of all, US citizens will get the vaccine.
One of the main developers of the drug is the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. The head of the institute, Anthony Fauci, has already said that first of all, the vaccine will go to doctors and other health workers who work directly with coronavirus patients.
Fauci said it will take about four months to vaccinate the most vulnerable populations. By March-April, you will need to decide on who it makes sense to vaccinate next.
However, the list of favorites may grow in the coming weeks.
AstraZeneca, which is testing a vaccine developed at the University of Oxford, should release preliminary data from its study. Scientists had to twice stop clinical trials due to illness of volunteers, however, the cold season should lead to an increase in infections - and therefore help them to make up for lost time somewhat.
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