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The Top 5 COVID-19 Vaccine Candidates & Their Progress.
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Top 5 Probable Candidates For Coronavirus Vaccine

Herbal Medicine

From the moment WHO (World Health Organization) declared coronavirus a pandemic disease, several biotech and medical institutes have been busy developing vaccines for this disease. It would be an understatement to say that the whole world has a keen eye on these developments and anticipate a fully working and tested formula to be mass produced soon. This would come as a major relief to a world which has been battling the COVID-19 pandemic since the last 7 months and has suffered major setbacks in terms of human life, commerce and our day to day lives.

While the globe is sharply watching scientists slog their way to making these vaccines, we have worked up a list of 5 top candidates in the race to develop a vaccine against COVID-19. Most probably, it will be one of these 5 vaccines you will soon be getting injected with.

So, we thought it would be great to give you all a heads up on the current status of these 5 probables. Statistically speaking, there are around 167 vaccine candidates which are under trials and any one of them could win the race but some of these look really promising and we could have a cure in the near future if all goes well. However, before we take a look at these potential candidates, let’s first understand the process of developing, testing and approving a vaccine for public use.

Phases of developing a vaccine:

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A vaccine becomes ready for use only after it has gone rigorous testing and trials on animals and humans. Thereafter, it needs to be approved by a certified agency and only then it can be used on a common person. The development cycle of a vaccine generally involves the following steps:

  • Exploratory stage
  • Preclinical stage
  • Clinical development
  • Regulatory review & approval
  • Manufacturing
  • Quality control

In the current scenario, the last two steps (manufacturing and quality control) are unimportant to us as most of the vaccines are somewhere in the first 4 phases of the cycle, so we will keep our discussion limited to those.

  • Exploratory stage is mostly studying the virus, incubation, symptoms, effects etc.
  • Preclinical study involves a deeper study of the virus’ genome and the effect it has on ours.
  • The third stage ‘clinical development’ is further divided into a four phase process.

These trials are done only when scientists see some potential in a formula and want to test it out further. Let’s go over each phase one by one:

Phase 1:
In this step, a small group of people (10-15) are given the trial vaccine. This is done to understand how the drug is processed by the human body. The administered dosage is very small and incapable of causing any harmful effects.

Phase 2:
In this phase, clinical study is expanded and the vaccine dosage is administered to people with potential for contracting the virus (people above 60 years or with prior medical history). These candidates are mostly similar to those for whom the vaccine is intended.

Phase 3:
This phase involves testing the vaccine on a larger number of people. The vaccine is tested for efficiency, safety and side-effects. This involves testing the vaccine by administering doses of different power to thousands of volunteers and post success in this stage, an approval for further tests is obtained. (organizations like FDA approve vaccines)

Phase 4:
This phase involves advanced trials on animals and humans and is usually conducted after approvals. Research is conducted on the short term and long term effects of the medication. This is usually done to determine how well the drug works over a longer period of time.

Now that you are familiar with the development cycle of a vaccine, let’s take a look at the top 5 candidates who will most likely be soon in the market available for use. Top pharmaceutical companies are developing these vaccines with biotech scientists and medical engineers at premier medicine institutions around the globe. Some of these look promising and they might actually rid the globe of the COVID-19 pandemic and revert things back to normality.

Here is a list and details of those vaccines which are ahead in the race and are probably going to hit the markets soon.

1. ChAdOx1 nCoV-19
This vaccine is being developed by Oxford university in collaboration with the pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca. They have used a weakened version of adenovirus, which is a common cold virus that infects chimpanzees. The viral replication in humans has been prevented and genes have been added to code the ‘spike proteins’ that coronavirus uses to infect human cells. The vaccine will allow the body to identify and develop antibodies/immunity against them. So far, trials have been partially preventive against pneumonia and no major adverse effects have been observed except minor muscle pain and chills. This vaccine is undoubtedly the top runner in the race. AstraZeneca is in the final (Phase 3) trials which involves over 10,000 people from the UK and 30,000 people from the USA.

Read More: Differences & Similarities Between COVID-19, Flu & Common Cold

2. Sinovac Biotech
Sinovac Biotech based in Beijing, China has developed a potential vaccine candidate called PiCoVacc which has shown significant potential in animal trials and has proved to be safe and effective. Further human trials are scheduled in Brazil with over 8800 volunteers. This vaccine has been developed from inactivated cultures of SARS-CoV-2 virus. The major difference between using an inactivated virus against a weakened virus culture is that vaccines developed from inactivated virus may need booster shots over time while they may also cause side effects to patients with weaker immunity. However, they are easier to mass produce as there is no need to culture the virus and weaken it and with technological progress, their harmful effects have also been minimized. (Source: HHS or US Department of Health & Human Sciences). In phase 1 & 2 trials, PiCoVacc has been found to develop antibodies against the coronavirus and no serious side-effects were observed.

3. Moderna Vaccine
Moderna, a US based biotech firm along with National Institute of Allergy & Infectious Diseases (NIAID) is developing a vaccine called mRNA-1273. This was the first vaccine to be tested on humans in the USA. It is based on mRNA technology which uses a piece of genetic material that teaches the cells to build viral proteins (in case of COVID-19, spike proteins) and be ready for the infection when exposed to the virus naturally. mRNA vaccines are quicker to manufacture and mass produce as they do not require the virus to be cultured and then deactivated, which takes a lot of time. However, mRNA vaccines may cause harmful side effects on humans as they aren’t very stable and break down faster than conventional vaccines. However, they are still a promising alternative to traditional vaccines. Recent technologies have managed to overcome the drawbacks with mRNA vaccines and produced encouraging results in both human and animal trials. The vaccine developed by Moderna is considered safe and well tolerated but more than half of the participants exhibited side effects like fatigue, chills, headache, muscle aches etc. This vaccine is ready for further trials which will involve more than 30,000 volunteers.

4. Cansino Biologics
Cansino Biologics in collaboration with Beijing Institute of Technology has developed a potential vaccine candidate from a weakened adenovirus that infects humans. This one is different from the Oxford vaccine which used a version of adenovirus that infects only chimpanzees. This one yielded favorable results in phase 1 & 2 trials and has got the green light for phase 3. In the first two phases, more than 508 volunteers took part and were administered two different doses of the vaccine. No adverse effects were observed and more than 9 out of 10 people developed antibodies and T-cell responses. In the third phase, researchers are looking forward to testing it outside China in phase 3 trials.

5. Sinopharm
This vaccine too is being developed in China by the state owned China National Pharmaceutical Company, Sinopharm. A deactivated version of the SARS-CoV-2 virus is being used for this vaccine, similar to Sinovac Biotech. So far, the vaccine has produced satisfactory results with minor side effects in a low percentage of participants. Most of the volunteers were found to develop antibodies and T-cell responses with mild side-effects. Sinopharm is on the phase 3 trials in Abu Dhabi which will involve over 10,000 participants.

Is Russia’s vaccine ready to be used?

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Recently, Russian medical agencies approved their home-grown vaccine called Sputnik-V, which was earlier called Gam-COVID-Vac. It is developed by the Gamaleya Research Institute in Moscow. The state’s Ministry of Health approved the vaccine on 11th August, however, there has been worldwide speculation about proper testing and trials regarding Sputnik-V. Experts have raised concerns about its safety and efficacy as phase 3 clinical trials are still pending and nothing conclusive can be ascertained without that data.

In a nutshell, the world is gearing up for the vaccine and a cure could be expected to be out soon. The COVID-19 pandemic brought together medical researchers, academicians and pharmaceutical companies in manufacturing these vaccines, one or more of which could be the answer to the problems we are facing.

In a nutshell, the world is gearing up for the vaccine and a cure could be expected to be out soon. The COVID-19 pandemic brought together medical researchers, academicians and pharmaceutical companies in manufacturing these vaccines, one or more of which could be the answer to the problems we are facing.

Nations like America, China and India are ready to mass manufacture and deploy the medication as soon as it’s ready. Plans for quick dissemination and distribution are already in pipeline (USA’s operation Warp Speed) and huge amounts of grants and budgets have been approved to complete the research and analysis faster.



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