Since COVID was first discovered, scientists across the globe have been racing to find a vaccine (or better, a miracle cure) to the horrible virus that has ruined all of our 2020. In fact, the race is so intense that the US have named their links to it ‘Operation Warp Speed’.
So who is in the race?
The vaccine trial most recently in the news, Pfizer is a controversial one. If successful, it will be the first mRNA vaccine used on humans. This is where the controversy comes in. A myth was spread across social media that the vaccine worked by altering your DNA. This is in fact, false. How it works, is by injecting snippets of the virus’ mRNA into our cells, which allows us to produce viral proteins that train the immune system to recognise the virus. It’s nowhere near as cool, or dramatic, as changing our DNA.
This vaccine has just proved more than 90% effective with no serious side effects, and so is currently winning the race. If successful, the vaccine would involve 2 injections, 21 days apart. The project is aiming to get signed off for distribution as soon as possible. Some sources reckon it’ll be out by the end of November.
The UK government has purchased enough of these to vaccinate 1/3 of our population, which will of course be done in order of who needs it the most. PM Boris Johnson announced yesterday that they are not yet sure how the order would go, and that if successful they will ensure that the vaccine is given out to as many people as possible, as quick as possible.
Based in India, this biotechnology company are working on a vaccine which uses an inactivated or non-infectious form of the virus. This then stimulates the same response from the immune system as the Pfizer vaccine. This trial is slightly behind the latter, but early trials show that the vaccine does result in antibodies being produced in over 90% of human participants.
Novavax is in phase 3 in the UK, testing its vaccine on a sample of 10,000 people. The vaccine they are developing involves the coronavirus’ spike proteins and a nanoparticle. This is then injected alongside an immune cell stimulant, in order to produce the immune response. The phase one trial of Novavax’s vaccine found it to be safe, and to produce more coronavirus antibodies than in those recovered from the virus. It also stimulates T cells, which are another part of the immune response.
Novavax’s vaccine, like Pfizer, is administered twice, 21 days apart.
Based over in the US, Moderna Therapeutics is in collaboration with the US National Institutes of Health. This vaccine is also an mRNA vaccine. Entering phase three, this vaccine has shown to be effective in healthy subjects, including the elderly.
University of Oxford
This vaccine is being dubbed the ‘trojan horse’, as it tricks the immune system. So far, results are looking good. It is in phase three of trials – looking to recruit up to 50,000 volunteers in Brazil, the UK, the US and South Africa.
There are of course, other trials happening across the world – but these are doing the best. They are the ones who have the most recent and most positive results so far.
What does this mean?
Well, in theory, with this many vaccines all heading into the final stages of trials – it could mean that there will be a vaccine being distributed by the end of the year. So everybody’s hopes for a better 2021 may well be possible.
However, some government officials are saying to not get too hopeful – PM Boris Johnson has said that whilst this hurdle has been passed, more are to come before the vaccines are cleared for public use.
Still, what’s the harm in hoping for a Christmas miracle? As it’s no doubt that a vaccine is on all of our Christmas lists.