Ask Dr. Nandi: Where does the quest for COVID-19 vaccines stand?

Posted at 5:36 PM, Jun 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-01 19:29:35-04

(WXYZ) — As the COVID-19 death toll continues to rise, how close are scientists to finding a vaccine? There are now over 100 vaccine trials underway.

I’ve recently talked about Moderna, who’ve been cleared for their second phase of testing for their vaccine candidate called mRNA-1273. Their initial phase one trial had shown that their vaccine had the potential to prevent COVID-19. Which is great news.

Another company making headway is the Chinese biopharmaceutical company Sinovac Biotech. They had tested their experimental vaccine in macaque monkeys, and found that it provided immunity. And their phase two clinical trails started back in May.

Other frontrunners include Johnson & Johnson. They plan to start trials of their vaccine candidate this September. Plus French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi who has partnered with GlaxoSmithKline also now has a vaccine in a pre-clinical phase.

Question: We’ve heard about a type of “trojan horse” vaccine, what can you tell us about that?

That vaccine is from CanSino Biologics and China's Institute of Biotechnology. They're looking at using an adenovirus, which is a weakened common cold virus, as a type of “Trojan Horse”. They hope it will trigger the immune system to fight off the virus with antibodies.

Their preliminary results show that it’s effective but this vaccine candidate still needs to get through Phase two of human clinical trials.

Question: What about the two vaccine candidates that said they could deliver by fall and the end of the year, where are they at?

One of them is the vaccine candidate BNT162 from the German company BioNTech. They have partnered with Pfizer. And their vaccine candidate uses "messenger DNA" to help the body create antibodies. It’s currently in stage 2 trials and they are still planning on producing millions of doses this year.

The other vaccine candidate that also plans to produce millions of doses this year, and are looking at doing this as early as September is from Oxford University. They are collaborating with the European pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca. They’re still in phase 1 and phase two of human trials. Volunteers are still being enrolled to test out their vaccine – which is also made from an adenovirus.

As for how these trials are going, we do not have anything new to report just yet, but hopefully, we’ll get some data soon.

Now, while we have quite a few promising treatments, I do have to be honest here. Many potential vaccines never get past phase two and phase three of human trials. Because they have to prove that they work in large-scale clinical trials that include anywhere between 100 and 3,000 patients.

But the good news is that with over 100 vaccines in the works, I’m confident that we’ll eventually find one to be safe and very effective at preventing COVID-19.

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