COVID-19 vaccine tracker: German CureVac shows an immune response, Aspen Pharmacare and J&J sign pact to make vaccine in South Africa

COVID-19 vaccine tracker: German CureVac shows an immune response, Aspen Pharmacare and J&J sign pact to make vaccine in South Africa
  • German vaccine maker CureVac said that interim results from early trials showed CvnCoV triggered immune response among volunteers.
  • Israel began human trials of a COVID-19 vaccine on November 1.
  • South African pharmaceutical giant Aspen Pharmacare signed a pact with Johnson & Johnson to manufacture its Covid-19 vaccine.
After registering over 42 million COVID-19 infections, the World Health Organisation is finally expecting a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of 2020 or early 2021.

It takes a decade or two to design, test, and launch an effective vaccine that can protect billions of people from diseases. However, COVID-19 has forced researchers to fast-track the vaccine making process.

Here's a look at COVID-19 vaccine updates from around the world —

Bharat Biotech to launch Covaxin by mid-2021

Bharat Biotech is planning to launch India's indigenous COVID vaccine, Covaxin, in the second quarter of next year, after it gets the necessary approvals from regulatory authorities, reported Reuters. The company is planning to begin recruitment for the third phase of its vaccine trials this month.

The trial will be conducted in 25 sites in 10-12 states and will provide two doses with each for the vaccine and placebo recipients, the company's Executive Director Sai Prasad said.


Germany CureVac's vaccine triggers an immune response

On Monday, German vaccine maker CureVac said that interim results from early trials showed that its investigational Covid-19 vaccine candidate, CvnCoV, appeared safe and triggered immune response among volunteers.

"We are very encouraged by the interim Phase 1 data. It represents a critical milestone in our Covid-19 vaccine programme and strongly supports the advancement of our vaccine candidate," Franz-Werner Haas, Chief Executive Officer of CureVac, said in a statement.

Aspen Pharmacare, Johnson & Johnson announce a deal to make Covid-19 vaccine

South African pharmaceutical giant Aspen Pharmacare signed a pact with Johnson & Johnson to manufacture its Covid-19 vaccine if approved in South Africa and internationally.

In a statement, Aspen said that if ongoing trials bring international health authorities to endorse the J&J vaccine as effective and safe, it would be produced at Aspen's manufacturing facility in Port Elizabeth in South Africa's Eastern Cape province.

Moderna prepares for the global launch of COVID-19 vaccine

American biotechnology company Moderna announced that it was preparing for the global launch of its Covid-19 vaccine candidate.

"We are actively preparing for the launch of mRNA-1273 and we have signed a number of supply agreements with governments around the world," Xinhua news agency quoted Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel as saying in a statement on Thursday.

In addition to the Phase 3 study of the Covid-19 vaccine mRNA-1273, which is fully enrolled, Moderna now has four programs in Phase 2 studies, according to Bancel.

Israel begins human trials of COVID vaccine

Israel has begun human trials of a COVID-19 vaccine on November 1, authorities have said. Two volunteers have received the vaccine. Israel will first test the vaccine on 80 people, before extending it to 980 in the second phase, and then 25,000 in the final stage, slated for April or May.

"We can see the light at the end of the tunnel," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters at Sheba Medical Center near Tel Aviv.

Japan’s Shionogi is planning to conduct clinical trials of COVID-19 vaccine in December

Japan’s Shionogi is planning to conduct phase I clinical trials of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate in December and phase II trials in January. Moreover, Shionogi S phase III trials are likely to be done overseas “due to the relative lack of COVID-19 cases in Japan”, reported Reuters.

Brazil says it might get a COVID-19 vaccine by June 2021

Brazil is expected to have a COVID-19 vaccine ready by June next year, according to the head of Brazil’s health regulator Anvisa, Antonio Barra Torres. According to Reuters, Anvisa is yet to decide on the minimum efficacy required to give vaccine approval. However, the agency has approved the vaccine with less than 50% effectiveness previously.

Brazil has played a significant role in conducting late-stage clinical trials of many global vaccine candidates including Oxford-AstraZeneca.

Oxford-AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine triggers an immune response in both young and old adults.

Oxford-AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate has prompted an immune response in both young and old adults. According to AstraZeneca, the vaccine also produces ‘lower adverse responses among elderly,” reported Reuters.

“It is encouraging to see immunogenicity responses were similar between older and younger adults and that reactogenicity was lower in older adults, where the COVID-19 disease severity is higher,” an AstraZeneca spokesman said.

Pfizer recruits 42,000 volunteers for phase II and III clinical trials.

US drugmaker Pfizer — which is working on a COVID-19 vaccine with German pharma company BioNTech — has recruited 42,111 volunteers to test its experimental COVID-19 vaccine candidate.

Earlier this week, Pfizer said it is likely to submit its COVID-19 vaccine to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval in November if the trials are successful.

Joe Biden pledges free COVID-19 vaccines for all Americans if elected.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, on October 24, has said that if he is elected to power in the November 3 election, he will make COVID-19 vaccines free for all Americans.

"Once we have a safe and effective vaccine, it has to be free to everyone -- whether or not you're insured," Xinhua news agency quoted Biden as saying during a speech in Wilmington, Delaware.

Johnson & Johnson pauses late-stage COVID-19 trials following a participant’s illness

A late-stage study of Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine candidate has been paused while the company investigates whether a study participant's unexplained illness is related to the shot.

In a statement, the company said that illnesses, accidents and other so-called adverse events are an expected part of any clinical study, especially large studies, but that its physicians and a safety monitoring panel would try to determine what might have caused the illness.

The pause is at least the second such hold to occur among several vaccines that have reached large-scale final tests in the US. The company declined to reveal any more details about the illness, citing the participant's privacy.

Russia’s COVID-19 vaccine to be widely domestically available by early November

Russia is all set to launch its COVID-19 vaccine, Sputnik V, domestically by late October or early November, according to the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF). Earlier in August, Russia claimed to be the first country to develop a coronavirus vaccine.

"We believe that the vaccine can start being widely used in Russia by late October or early November," Kirill Dmitriev, head, RDIF said.

It is further expecting to roll out the vaccine in the Middle-East after human trials by the end of November, Russian news agency TASS reported.

Pakistan hopes to acquire a COVID-19 vaccine within the next 6 months

A Pakistani official from the Ministry of National Health Services has expressed hope that the country would acquire a vaccine against the novel coronavirus in the next six months. The official said on October 12 that Pakistan has also prepared antibodies against spike proteins, Dawn reported.

"At present, 15 vaccines were in phase-III trials globally out of which 11 target the spike protein," he said.

UK to begin trials to test if anti-TB BCG vaccine works against COVID-19

Scientists in the United Kingdom will begin recruiting frontline healthcare workers to test if an old vaccine used to combat tuberculosis (TB), the Bacillus Calmette-Guerin, or BCG jab can be repurposed to help boost immunity against the novel coronavirus as well.

The University of Exeter in south-west England said on October 11 that it is leading the UK arm of the worldwide research called the BCG vaccination to reduce the impact of COVID-19 in healthcare workers (BRACE) trials.

Participants will be given either the BCG vaccine, currently provided to more than 100 million babies worldwide each year, including in India, to protect against TB or a placebo injection.

In India, Bharat Biotech asked to submit complete phase 2 trial data of its COVID-19 vaccine before phase 3 trials

On October 10, Bharat Biotech — which earlier got permission to conduct phase-3 clinical trials of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate — has been asked to submit complete safety and immunogenicity data of the ongoing phase-2 trial, besides providing some clarifications, before proceeding for the next stage.

The vaccine candidate, 'Covaxin,' is being indigenously developed by the Bharat Biotech in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).

According to officials, the Hyderabad-based vaccine maker applied to the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) on October 2, seeking its permission to conduct phase III randomised, double-blind placebo-controlled multicentre trial of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate.

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