In layman terms, a vaccine is a blueprint of the virus for the body to defend itself. A vaccine basically expedites the body’s ability to adapt rather than allowing it to learn over time.
A typical vaccine takes 10-15 years to produce as it needs to go through three phases.
Phase 1: Checks the safety of vaccine and determines whether it triggers an immune response in small group of healthy humans.
Phase 2: Widens the testing pool to include groups of people who may have the disease or be more likely to catch it, to gauge the vaccine’s effectiveness.
Phase 3: Expands the pool up to the thousands to ensure the vaccine is safe and effective among a wider array of people, given that immune response can vary by age, ethnicity, or by underlying health conditions.
After going through the three phases, the vaccine is sent to regulatory agencies for approval which can be a lengthy process itself.
However, the severity of COVID-19 has prompted for a more urgent process which cuts back the regular timeframe of 10 to 15 years to a mere 1.5 to 2 years.
It is a race for pharmaceutical companies that have been pouring millions into COVID-19 vaccine research – for which if they come out on top, would generate them hundreds of million if not billions in valuation.
Though it is too soon to say for sure which candidates will ultimately be successful, here is a look at the prospects that have completed Phase 3:
One of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, based in New York, in collaboration with German biotech company BioNTech.
Vaccine Name: BNT162b2
Status: Phase 3, 90% Effectiveness reported.
Delivery date: 100m doses by December 2020 (Subject to approval)
A Massachusetts-based biotech company, in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health.
Vaccine Name: mRNA-1273
Status: Phase 3, 94.5% Effectiveness reported.
Delivery date: 20m doses by December 2020 (Subject to approval)
The Gamaleya National Center of Epidemiology and Microbiology
A Russian research institution, in partnership with the state-run Russian Direct Investment Fund.
Vaccine Name: mRNA-1273
Status: Phase 2, 92% Effectiveness reported.
Delivery date: Available however lacks phase 3 trial and published evidence.
Phase 2 Prospects
- Bharat Biotech
Vaccine Name: COVAXIN (90% Effectiveness)
Vaccine Name: NVX-CoV2373 (undisclosed Effectiveness)
- Johnson & Johnson
Vaccine Name: JNJ-78436735 (undisclosed Effectiveness)
There are other companies and research facilities that are actively researching the vaccine for COVID-19; these are a selection of companies that are ahead of the race and likely to hit the market first.