There are currently more than 100 vaccine candidates under development, with four major vaccines raising hope in Europe. We have gathered the most important information people need to know.
Pharmaceutical companies across the world are racing to develop a vaccine against the coronavirus. Currently, 87 vaccines are being tested on animals, 57 on humans, and six have obtained conditional approval for limited use.
In Europe, people typically talk about four major vaccines, and perhaps the best-known is manufactured by Pfizer-BioNTech. The vaccine developmed by the US-German company has been tested in volunteers in clinical trials in several countries since July, including the US, Brazil, Argentina, Germany, Turkey, and South Africa. Clinical trials showed that the vaccine is 95 per cent effective, thus highly promising. However, the fact that the vaccine should be stored at minus 70 degrees poses some difficulties in terms of transport, storage, and use. Pfizer-BioNTech has already submitted an application for conditional approval of the vaccine with the European Medicines Agency.
Q: How is the cold chain distribution for the Pfizer-BioNTech investigational vaccine being managed? (7/7)— Pfizer Inc. (@pfizer) November 25, 2020
The British regulator, MHRA, approved the vaccine on 2 December. Thus, the UK has become the first country in the world to approve Pfizer-BioNTech's Covid-19 vaccine for widespread use. The UK has ordered around 40 million doses - enough to vaccinate 20 million people. Around 10 million doses should be available soon, with the first 800,000 arriving in the UK in the coming days. The immunisation of the most vulnerable age groups could start as early as next week.
The biggest rival of Pfizer/BioNTech's vaccine is a drug manufactured by Moderna. The company has also contacted the European Commission. Their vaccine has been tested on people in the United States since July. Its biggest advantage is that it can be stored at minus 20 degrees for up to six months and - just like the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine - is more than 90% effective. The US company applied to the EU for approval on Monday. The EU is expected to assess the inoculation by 12 January.
Update: The European Medicines Agency has received Moderna's application for conditional marketing authorization of our COVID-19 vaccine— Moderna (@moderna_tx) December 1, 2020
The vaccine manufactured by the British AstraZeneca has been tested in humans since June. The jab may be promising in several ways as it costs a fraction of the above two and can be stored in an ordinary refrigerator. On the downside, it shows only 62 to 90 per cent efficacy. Testing indicated that it was more effective in mostly healthy volunteers aged up to 55, while it only had a 62% efficacy in elderly people with underlying chronic diseases. The vaccine is different from the two US drugs in that while those are RNA-based - which means they introduce fragments of genetic material into the body and trigger an immune response - AstraZeneca's vaccine uses a virus carrier; an artificial, weakened copy of the coronavirus, which is incapable of infecting the body and sufficient enough to trigger its antigen production. The vaccine has already been pre-ordered by the British government.
Russia's Sputnik V is based on a similar viral vector, a dose of which has first been sent to Hungary for testing. The vaccine has a 92 per cent efficacy and does not require cryopreservation. Experts have found it "reasonably effective" and it is expected to hit the markets in January.