Public health experts are hoping one or several vaccines for COVID-19 will be ready by 2021. Close to 200 vaccines for the disease are under study, and several candidates have moved to phase III human studies.
To help speed up development and fund the trials, the U.S. has set up Operation Warp Speed, a partnership with the Department of Health and Human Services, the FDA and other federal agencies. Its goal is to deliver 300 million doses of a safe, effective vaccine by January 2021. These companies are included in the program: AstraZeneca, Janssen (Johnson & Johnson), Moderna, Novavax, Pfizer and Sanofi/GSK.
British pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca on Monday said its potential Covid-19 vaccine has produced a similar immune response in older and younger adults. AstraZeneca, which is developing its potential Covid-19 vaccine in collaboration with the University of Oxford, said adverse responses to the vaccine among the elderly were also found to be lower.
The announcement is likely to boost hopes of a Covid vaccine being developed before the end of the year.
Pfizer, one of the front-runners in the quest for a COVID-19 vaccine, has more than one vaccine candidate, being developed together with the German company BioNTech. It said its candidate vaccine looks safe, and the company expects to have data soon on how well it protects people against the coronavirus.
The US Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Defense announced a $1.95 billion agreement with Pfizer to produce 100 million doses of the vaccine. The deal also allows the US government to acquire an additional 500 million doses.
The start of Moderna’s Phase 3 trial of its mRNA-1273 vaccine was announced just last August. It will involve 30,000 adults at 89 clinical research sites around the country. It is the first Phase 3 trial begun under Operation Warp Speed, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Novavax, a biotechnology company based in Gaithersburg, Maryland, announced the launch of its phase three trial in the United Kingdom on September 24, which will evaluate the vaccine in up to 10,000 people, both with and without underlying conditions. Up to 400 participants will also be vaccinated against the seasonal flu as part of a sub-study that will help determine whether it is safe to give patients both vaccines at the same time.
On September 23, Johnson & Johnson, based in New Jersey, announced the launch of a phase three ENSEMBLE trial to evaluate the safety of the vaccine – and how well it works – among up to 60,000 adults from a variety of countries. The trial will include “significant representation” from older populations and those with underlying conditions that make them more susceptible to COVID-19.
On October 12, Johnson & Johnson announced that it has paused these trials for an independent safety review due to an unexplained illness in a participant.