Countries in Europe, North America, and Asia have been pushing to be the world’s first coronavirus vaccine makers. Scientists in universities including Oxford, Cambridge, and Harvard with independent pharmaceutical companies have been working to find a vaccine, but where have they gotten?
Trials of several of the candidates involving tens of thousands of participants have already begun. Some companies had suggested early trial data could be ready for release in October, but pushed that to November and December.
The United States drug maker, Pfizer Inc., with German partner, BioNTech S.E., and U.S. biotech, Moderna Inc., could have early data this November. Britain-based AstraZeneca Plc, in conjunction with University of Oxford, and Johnson & Johnson are also on track to deliver data for their vaccines this year.
The companies are testing their vaccines against in healthy volunteers to see if the rate of COVID-19 infection among those who got the vaccine is significantly lower than in those who received the dummy shot.
The trials rely on subjects becoming naturally infected with the coronavirus, so how long it takes to generate results largely depends on how pervasive the virus is where trials are being conducted.
Pfizer believes it may know if its vaccine works once 32 people contract COVID-19 in the 44,000-person trial, as long as the overwhelming majority of those infected had received the placebo.
The drug makers are saying that the reduced rate of infection is slowing things down. AstraZeneca said a slowdown in infections during the summer delayed its UK trial and that it expected to have results by the end of the year. Its timeline was also extended by a pause to investigate an illness in a UK trial participant.
The United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom and the World Health Organization have all set similar minimum standards for effectiveness. Some regulators have said that vaccines must demonstrate at least 50% efficacy. Although, the European Medicines Agency has said it may accept a lower efficacy level.