Animal studies of a potential COVID-19 vaccine have been so encouraging that researchers plan to speed up testing of the vaccine in humans.
In the beginning it was expected to start testing in September, but that start date has been moved up to August.
The vaccine was developed by researchers at the Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore. Furthermore it uses a genetic material to trigger an immune response in the body. Virus like proteins are prompted by the body, to be created, once the vaccine has been injected.
This type of vaccine may be capable of treating an active coronavirus (COVID-19) case. This is important because most vaccines are strictly preventives unlike the Coronavirus Vaccine.
The vaccine activates “two arms of the immune system,” explained study author Dr. Eng Eong Ooi, deputy director of the Emerging Infectious Diseases Program at Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore.
One of these arms teaches the body how to recognize the virus to prevent a coronavirus infection. The second arm actually finds and kills off the infected cells. As a result the Coronavirus Vaccine prevents the illness from spreading within the body.
“In preclinical studies, that’s come true — that we can develop both arms of the immune response against coronavirus,” Ooi said during a Wednesday media briefing on the vaccine.
Other Coronavirus Vaccine
Researchers around the world are developing more than 140 vaccines against the coronavirus, according to The New York Times’ vaccine tracker. There are currently 18 potential vaccines being tested for safety and correct dosing in Phase 1 or 2 clinical trials, and three vaccines are in Phase 3 trials, where they are undergoing large-scale testing.
Event though a Coronavirus Vaccine is in the making, the Duke team advised us not to expect a vaccine by the end of the year.
“I think it’s entirely possible that a vaccine will be approved this year, but not at scale,” Ridley explained. “We might have some people vaccinated this year, but the average person won’t be vaccinated.”
Denny added, “We may have some good science by the end of the year and think we have some leading candidates. But manufacturing them to have it all administered, that’s a tall order to be ready by the beginning of 2021.”
The vaccine will likely be the first of its kind to get this far in clinical trials if the trials proceed as expected.
Although there is some level of uncertainty with a unique vaccine like this one, the research thus far has demonstrated that the vaccine is safe.
Research has demonstrated that the vaccine is safe. Although, there are many months of testing ahead for the Coronavirus Vaccine.
Ooi said, “We are quite confident that given the kind of safety profile we observe with using RNA to deliver drugs, we should be able to get a fairly decent safety profile. I would think this vaccine will be tolerable and acceptable to the public.”
The next steps
The Coronavirus Vaccine will be tested on a small group of healthy adults in the next phase. If is is shown to be safe, the next stage will be testing the elderly and more vulnerable population.
In the next phase, a large population would be given either the vaccine or a placebo. This phase will be studied to see if the population gets infected with the virus naturally. But the speed and efficacy of that stage depend on how common coronavirus infections are at that time, Ooi explained.
“We can vaccinate the individuals and then see whether that would protect them from COVID, compared to a group where they got the placebo instead,” Ooi said. “But, if for whatever reason the disease incidence or prevalence of disease goes down, then it’ll take us a much longer time to assess efficacy.”
Even if the trials go according to plan, it is difficult to say when the vaccine could become available for general use. Ooi predicted this time next year “at the soonest.”
If all the phases go according to plan, it will still be difficult to predict when the general public will have access to the coronavirus vaccine. The government of Singapore is funding the research and development of the Coronavirus Vaccine.