Seven months after the emergence of the worst global health crisis in a century the race is on to find the medical equivalent of the Holy Grail — a COVID-19 vaccine.
To date the novel coronavirus has killed about 590,000 people worldwide and infected close to 14 million in 196 countries since the outbreak first emerged in China late last year.
How to stop in its tracks a pandemic which has wreaked havoc on the world economy is now the pressing multi-billion-dollar issue for vaccine developers aware that every suggestion the goal may be in sight will be pored over in microscopic detail.
– How many vaccines? –
In its most recent assessment this month, the World Health Organization identified 21 “vaccine candidates” — almost half involving Chinese companies or institutes — following a series of global clinical trials.
Many are still in what is termed the first phase, which seeks to establish a product’s security and dosage,
Some however have graduated to phase two, which examines how effective a medicine may be.
Two candidate vaccines have reached stage three, whereby developers monitor issues such as degree of potential toxicity on a much larger scale and test it in a wider range of conditions prior to eventual submission for approval.
The duo concerned are a European project being developed at Oxford University in tandem with AstraZeneca and a Chinese variant from biopharmaceutical company Sinovac in collaboration with Brazilian research institute Butantan.
Sinovac’s project is among the most advanced — it will start the testing for its vaccine on volunteers in Brazil this month.
A Canadian clinical trial to involve CanSino Biologics was also earlier given the green light, and the company said last month that China’s military had approved for use within its ranks the vaccine it helped to develop.