The race to get a vaccine to end the crisis of the coronavirus or at least soften its effects it starts showing the first results. Four days ago, through a press release, the American company Moderna announced the results of a test with 45 healthy volunteers.
According to him, his vaccine is “safe and well tolerated”, and it generated at least eight of the participants levels of antibodies capable of neutralizing the infection, similar or superior to those found in the blood of patients who survived the disease.
This Friday, the team from the Beijing Biotechnology Institute and the company Cansino Biologics, in China, also announced the results of phase 1 of the first vaccine developed in that country. In this case, published in an article published in the journal The Lancet, with all data available for analysis by the scientific community. After 28 days of testing with 108 healthy volunteers, the results look promising. In addition to demonstrating their safety, the scientists observed that the vaccine generated antibodies and T lymphocytes in the volunteers.
Since April, the Chinese team has carried out a second phase of trials with about 500 patients to define the most appropriate dose for the immune response to protect against SARS-CoV-2 infection. Moderna wants to start the definitive phase III trial in mid-year, which would check whether the vaccine is useful for massive summer use. This Friday, at EL PAÍS, virologist Florian Krammer, from Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, estimated that some of the Chinese vaccines could complete this final phase in the last quarter of the year.
The vaccine that is being tested for the first time in humans is based on an attenuated common cold virus. This virus is able to invade human cells without causing disease. Therefore, it serves as a means of transport to introduce into the patient’s cells the genetic material that encodes the proteins that form the spikes with which SARS-CoV-2 enters the cells.
These cells then produce the protein, which reaches the immune system of the person receiving the vaccine and allows them to create antibodies that will later recognize the spike and prevent infection.
The pharmaceutical giants, with the support of the United States, have pledged to devote billions of dollars to promoting different strategies for getting an effective vaccine against the pathogen. At the moment, there are already more than 100 vaccine candidates worldwide. The big question is how long it will take to manufacture these vaccines so that they reach the entire population.
Elisa Sicuri, a researcher at the Institute of Global Health in Barcelona and the Department of Epidemiology of Infectious Diseases at the School of Public Health at Imperial College, London, explains this complexity: “We are 7.6 billion inhabitants on the planet and we will all need it. It is not known how many doses will be needed, whether it will be one for life or one a year, like the flu vaccine. We do not know what the production process for this or these vaccines will be. Some are simple to produce and others, very complex ”. Neither the initial research process nor the future production “can be done by a single country or a single pharmaceutical company. If we want it to reach the whole world, we will have to join forces ”, he explains.