As the world puts a joint effort in battling the novel coronavirus, scientists and medical researchers are also working round the clock to develop a vaccine to defeat the highly infectious disease. Typically, a traditional vaccine takes years to develop as it has to go through several levels of clinical trials and needs to be tested for side-effects in the long run. However, as the experts across the globe continue to work at breakneck speed, we already have more than 100 potential vaccines for COVID-19.
What is the Oxford vaccine
The World Health Organization has already identified 7 to 8 top vaccine candidates that are being accelerated and effort is underway to speed up the development of these vaccines.
In this race, the vaccine candidate being developed by Oxford University was touted as one of the leading potential vaccines. For their vaccine candidate ‘ChAdOx1 nCoV-19’, the researchers used a weakened strain of common cold virus (adenovirus) that causes infections in Chimpanzees and combined it with the genetical material of SARS-CoV-2 spike protein.
The vaccine candidate was based on the idea of teaching the body to recognise the spike protein of the novel coronavirus and prepare the immune system to attack it, in case the virus ever entered the body. Additionally, clinical trials of the vaccine had already begun and more than 320 people were already given the jab of ChAdOx1 nCoV-19.
What do the recent reports say
The COVID-19 vaccine being produced by the Oxford University is among the top 8 candidates which are being tested on humans for safety and efficacy, but recent reports have shown that it is only “partially” effective as it was not able to prevent infection in rhesus macaque monkeys. To conduct the trial, six monkeys were vaccinated with the candidate vaccine, while three animals were given ChAdOx1 GFP.
A trial of on these monkeys showed that one of the frontrunners of the coronavirus vaccine, ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 protected the animals from developing viral pneumonia but did not stop them from catching the infection. Furthermore, there was no difference in the amount of viral RNA detected from this site in the vaccinated monkeys as compared to the unvaccinated animals, as per Dr William A. Haseltine, a former Harvard Medical School professor who wrote for a leading media outlet.
So, what now?
The trial of the rhesus macaque monkeys have underlined that the vaccine may be effective in reducing the severity of the disease, it is certainly not able to prevent infection in the animals. Infact, Pune-based Serum Institute of India which is the world’s largest vaccine maker by volume had also tied up with the Oxford University to mass-produce the vaccine if they were proven effective.
The plan was to produce 60 million doses of the potential vaccine candidate in a year. It is important to note that developing a vaccine usually takes years as it goes through several clinical trials and even though the procedure is accelerated right now, it may still take at least a year or two to have an effective vaccine in the best-case scenario.
The bottom line
As of now, there are still more than 100 vaccines in various stages of clinical trials including the ones being developed by US-based Moderna Inc and Sinovac Biotech of China. While both the vaccine candidates have shown promising results in the initial trails, it is important to have realistic expectations from these vaccines and continue practising social distancing to keep ourselves safe.