Coronavirus Vaccine Tracker: The Latest Developments

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To help you keep tabs on the latest developments, IFLScience has pulled together all of the need-to-know information about different vaccine candidates that are being developed, authorized, and rolled out around the world. We've also gathered some other useful information about vaccinations and the larger picture of the pandemic, including a live map of COVID-19 cases across the world, to give you a clear idea of the global situation as it unravels. 

How Are Vaccines Made?

Vaccines need to pass at least three steps before they can be considered for authorization by health authorities. Phase 1 involves a relatively small group of healthy volunteers and its main purpose is to see whether there are any adverse reactions and to identify any side-effects. Next, Phase 2 is designed to assess dosing requirements and judge how effective it is. Phase 3 then involves testing with large groups of people, typically 1,000 to 3,000, to confirm its efficacy, its effectiveness, and to monitor side effects. Once these steps are successfully completed, the vaccine candidate will then seek approval from regulatory authorities. 

Some have expressed concern that the vaccines have been developed in under a year, suggesting the process has been "rushed." While the vaccines have certainly been developed in a relatively short time span, this is simply a reflection of all resources being focused on a single goal and efficiency within the system. The vaccines have been tested on the same amount of people as previous vaccines and have been subjected to the same level of scrutiny.

 

Different Types Of Vaccine

Like other vaccines, COVID-19 vaccines work on the idea of introducing the body to a safe part of the virus, providing it with the chance to develop immunity to SARS-CoV-2 without actually contracting the disease. However, there are a few different types of vaccine: 

Inactivated/attenuated virus: This is a vaccine that uses SARS-CoV-2 virus particles that have been made inactive — effectively "killed" if we consider viruses as living microorganisms — or attenuated (weakened) and aren't capable of causing the disease. Once introduced to the body, they still provoke an immune response.

Viral Vector: Viral vectors are genetically edited viruses that are designed to deliver genetic material into cells. Scientists will genetically tweak a less harmful virus, such as an Adenovirus, to contain the genetic coding of the pathogen's antigen. The virus is often weakened so it cannot cause disease. Once introduced to the body, the virus will infect cells, making it produce the antigen. The antigen (which is useless by itself) will become recognized by the body's immune system, allowing it to be prepared to respond to the infection in the future. 

mRNA vaccine: This is a relatively new type of vaccine that works by injecting a small synthetic fragment of the virus's genetic code, the mRNA, into the human body. This genetic code gives instructions for our cells to make a harmless piece of the virus’ “spike protein.” The body’s cells read these instructions and produce that harmless fragment. Once this piece of protein enters the bloodstream, our immune system "learns" to produce antibodies for it. The mRNA vaccines against COVID-19 are the very first of their kind to be approved by a medical regulator. 

 

Vaccine Candidate Tracker: Last Updated April 05, 2021

News about the latest efforts to develop, trial, and roll out a vaccine against COVID-19 have been coming in thick and fast, with more than 200 candidate vaccines now tracked by the World Health Organization (WHO). Here's a concise summary of some of the latest developments. 

 

PFIZER AND BIONTECH

"BNT162b2" — mRNA vaccine

Facts & Evidence

The final phase 3 clinical trial showed that the vaccine, administered in two dosages, has an efficacy of 95 percent. Requires ultra-cold storage, around -75°C (-103°F). More info on its effiacy can be seen here.

On March 31, Pfizer announced results from a clincial trial claiming the vaccine elicits "100 percent efficacy and robust antibody responses" in adolescents from 12 to 15 years old

On April 1, Pfizer announced results from a clinical trial showing 100 percent efficacy at preventing COVID-19 cases in South Africa, where variant B.1.351 is prevalent.

Approval:

Approved in the UK: On Dec. 2, the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) approved the vaccine for use.

Approved in Canada: On Dec. 9, Health Canada authorized this vaccine with conditions.

Approved in the US: On Dec. 11, the US FDA authorizes the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for emergency use.

Approved in the European Union: On Dec. 21, the  European Medicines Agency authorized the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

It has also been given full approval for use in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

On Dec. 31, the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine became the first to receive emergency validation from the World Health Organization.

 

THE UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD AND ASTRAZENECA

"ChAdOx1 nCoV-19" — Non-Replicating Viral Vector

Facts & Evidence

Phase 3 trial showed the vaccine was 70 percent effective. Unusually, efficiency rose to 90 percent of people who received a small dose followed by a full dose.

Approval:

Various trials worldwide: Phase 2/3 trial in the UK and Phase 3 trial in Brazil.

Approved in the UK: On Dec. 30, the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) approved the vaccine for use.

Approved in Argentina for emergency use on Dec. 30.

Approved in India on Jan. 3.

Approved in Canada on Feb. 26.

 

MODERNA

"mRNA-1273" — mRNA vaccine

Facts & Evidence

Phase 3 trial showed overall efficacy of the vaccine is 94.1 percent, with efficacy against severe COVID-19 of 100 percent. A study also showed that the vaccine produced antibodies for at least 3 months.

Approval:

Approved in the US: On Dec. 18, the FDA issued an emergency use authorization for the second vaccine for preventing COVID-19. 

Approved in Canada: On Dec. 23, Health Canada approved the Moderna vaccine for use in Canada, saying it had met their “stringent safety, efficacy and quality requirements”.

Approved in Israel on Jan. 4 2021. 

Approval in the European Union on Jan. 6 2021.

Approved in the UK on Jan. 8 2021.

 

GAMALEYA RESEARCH INSTITUTE

"Sputnik V" — Non-Replicating Viral Vector

Facts & Evidence

Early results of Phase 2 trials suggested Russia's flagship vaccine could be 92 percent effective.

Freezer storage, although developing an alternative that can be refrigerated.

On Jan. 11, the Russian Health Ministry gave approval for Gamaleya to start clinical trials of a "light vaccine" against COVID-19, dubbed "Sputnik Light."

On Feb. 2 2021, preliminary findings published in The Lancet report that Russia's Sputnik V vaccine has a 91.6 percent efficacy and is well-tolerated in its phase 3 trial.

Approval:

Approved in Russia, without Phase 3 trial.

 

JANSSEN (JOHNSON & JOHNSON)

"JNJ-78436735" — Non-Replicating Vector

Facts & Evidence

This vaccine is made with a genetically modified virus called Adenovirus 26, or Ad26, a technology that was also used to develop the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for Ebola.

On Jan. 29, Johnson & Johnson announced its single-shot Jansen vaccine is 66 percent effective at preventing moderate to severe COVID-19 and 85 percent effective at preventing severe disease.

Approval:

Approved in Bahrain on Feb. 25.

On Feb. 27, the FDA authorized Johnson & Johnson's vaccine for emergency use.

 

SINOPHARM - WUHAN INSTITUTE OF BIOLOGICAL PRODUCTS AND BEIJING INSTITUTE OF BIOLOGICAL PRODUCTS

Unnamed — Inactivated SARS-CoV-2

Facts & Evidence

Two separate trials run by a subsidiary of China's state-owned vaccine maker. Limited public data on its efficacy.

Approval:

Approved from limited use in China. Almost a million people in China have reportedly taken the vaccine, namely government officials, students, and workers traveling overseas. In September, the United Arab Emirates approved emergency use of Sinopharm’s vaccine.

On Dec. 30, Sinopharm said its vaccine showed 79.34 percent efficacy and it has requested regulatory approval. 

Approved in China. On Dec. 31, China approved the Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccine for general use. Limited information is publicly available.

 

NOVAVAX

"NVX-CoV2373" — Protein subnit

Facts & Evidence

Uses nanoparticles carrying antigens derived from the coronavirus spike protein. Data from the Phase 1/2 trial showed the vaccine was safe and sparked antibody response.

In Jan. 2021, Novavax's COVID-19 vaccine was found to be 89.3 percent effective in a large-scale UK trial. It was also found to be 85.6 percent effective against the UK variant of concern and approximately 60 percent effective against the fast-spreading South African variant.

Approval: 

None yet. 

 

Sinovac

"CoronaVac"  — Inactivated SARS-CoV-2

Facts & Evidence

Uses nanoparticles carrying antigens derived from the coronavirus spike protein. Data from the Phase 1/2 trial showed the vaccine was safe and sparked antibody response.

On Jan. 13, Brazilian clinical trials found that Sinovac’s vaccine was 50.4 percent effective, notably less than initially suggested.

Approval:

Sinovac has been approved for emergency use in high-risk groups in China since July, according to BBC News.

On Jan. 20, Chile's health regulator approved Sinovac's vaccine for emergency use.

On Feb. 6, China gave broader approval to the Sinovac vaccine. Associated Press also reports that the Sinovac vaccine has been sold to at least 10 other countries and is being administered to people in at least five other countries

 

Anti-Vax Myth Busting

Vaccine skepticism is one of the many hurdles in the fight against COVID-19, but it can be combatted with some informed advice and knowledge. Watch this video of a microbiologist busting some of the most common vaccine myths.

What's THe GLobal Situation Right now?

This interactive dashboard was created by a team of researchers from Our World in Data led by Max Roser, Hannah Ritchie, Esteban Ortiz-Ospina, and Joe Hasell. They sourced their data from the COVID-19 Data Repository by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University, one of the most comprehensive collections of data on COVID-19 available online.

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