Researchers are making so much progress in developing a vaccine against COVID-19 that the first wide-scale testing could begin in a matter of weeks.
The New York Times Coronavirus Vaccine Tracker says a vaccine developed by the 10-year-old biotech company Moderna expects to start wide-scale testing this month. If it does, it would mark an almost unprecedented acceleration of the clinical testing process.
Typically, testing and approving a new vaccine takes two or three years. Sometimes more. But under the federal government’s Operation Warp Speed, Modena received a fast-track designation from the Food and Drug Administration. It also got a $483 million award to further its Covid-19 vaccine.
Through its Coronavirus Vaccine Tracker The Times is updating the status of all the vaccines that have reached human testing, along with a selection of promising vaccines still being tested in cells or animals. Because of the number and especially speed at which bioscience and pharmaceutical firms are moving to develop a successful vaccine, the Tracker is being updated almost every day.
The World Health Organization lists 149 different vaccine projects underway worldwide. 17 are in clinical evaluation, meaning they are being tested in humans, either in small groups to ensure their safety and basic efficacy, or in hundreds to see the effect among different age groups.
The Vaccine Tracker lists five vaccine candidates that are in or about to launch Phase III testing, the broadest testing category where thousands of volunteers are enlisted to determine if the vaccine is widely effective and how well it protects people from becoming infected. That’s the test Moderna expects to begin soon.
A vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford is already in Phase III testing in Brazil and South Africa and is in a simultaneous Phase II and III study in Europe. This program, like Moderna’s, is part of Operation Warp Speed.
The Vaccine Tracker lists two Chinese firms – Sinovac Biotech and Sinopharm – as ready to soon start broad testing of their respective vaccines. Sinopharm’s testing will be conducted in the United Arab Emirates. Sinovac plans to conduct its Phase III study in China and Brazil.
A fifth vaccine, which is not a vaccine specifically for COVID-19, but a sort of immune system booster, is being tested in Australia. Bacillus Calmette-Guerin, a vaccine originally developed for tuberculosis, has been found over its 100 year history to help fight off other types of infections and parasites. The Phase III testing will determine if it also helps protect against COVID-19.
Image by Angelo Esslinger