Two RNA vaccines developed and produced by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna/NIH have already reported highly significant protection against SARS-CoV-2 with negligible side effects. The Pfizer vaccine has been submitted to the FDA for approval, which should be quickly forthcoming. Moderna will soon submit its vaccine for FDA approval.
Now, a third and different type of two-shot vaccine developed by the UK’s AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford also reports 90% efficacy. It also showed minimal adverse effects that are expected from the immune reaction to any vaccine. Unlike the RNA vaccines, this one is a crippled adenovirus engineered to express the CoV-2 spike protein and offers some advantages over the RNA vaccines. First, it can be produced and marketed at a fraction of the cost of the RNA vaccines. Second, it only needs refrigeration storage, not a freezer like the Moderna vaccine, and not an ultracold freezer like the Pfizer vaccine requires. These advantages mean that this vaccine will be more readily available for third-world countries that do not have freezer storage capability. Also, AstraZeneca plans to produce its vaccine in multiple countries, from India to Brazil to Japan and to Australia, and beyond which will facilitate its international distribution.
Getting a vaccine out to the several billion people around the world is a daunting challenge. Having multiple vaccines produced in various sites around the world should facilitate the distribution to all countries. A global program called Covax has an ambitious effort to deploy vaccines around the world, getting dozens of countries to join and securing deals for 700 million doses so far. AstraZeneca has agreed to supply the initiative, while a collaboration including the Serum Institute of India agreed to accelerate the production of the AstraZeneca or, soon to come, Novavax shots for low- and middle-income nations, priced at only $3 per dose. Another Covax pact with pharma companies Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline Plc, which are developing their own vaccines, followed last month. The program, led by the World Health Organization, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, expects more deals in the coming weeks. Pfizer/BioNTech, along with Moderna/NIH, are also in talks with Covax.
AstraZeneca/Oxford has easily been the most active company in reaching supply accords around the world. It has assembled an unprecedented global network of manufacturing and distribution partners, and has promised to provide 3.2 billion doses of its vax. More than 50 lower- and middle-income countries in regions including Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Eastern Europe would receive AstraZeneca/Oxford’s shot, which will be provided at cost during the current pandemic. The company is poised to be the dominant vaccine supplier to the developing world and it is forgoing any profit to do so.
Trial results for other vaccines produced by Novavax Inc. and Johnson and Johnson are expected soon. The Milken Institute tracks a total of 199 vaccines in development around the world. That means we can soon expect results from 194 more vaccines.
A final note: Some folks with a conspiratorial mindset have pointed out that these positive vaccine results presented just after the November 3rd US election is evidence that the election was rigged. They assume that the vaccine results were delayed in order to prevent giving Trump a bump. But, these folks have to explain why and how German and British pharma and biotech companies, and universities, which had no input from the US, were involved in that conspiracy.
Note: In order to have blog updates delivered to your email, see the simple Subscription Instructions here. Remember, you can easily unsubscribe when you want.