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Opinion

Moderna Therapeutics speeds up

COVID-19

The Oxford vaccine is not the only vaccine in clinical trials, according to Jarbas Barbosa, deputy director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO-WHO). There are currently 150 candidate vaccine and therapy projects to treat SARS-CoV-2. 

A total of six trials are the most advanced to achieve effective immunization: 1) the Oxford vaccine with an agreement with the British pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca; 2) China National Pharmaceutical Group Corp. known as Sinopharm, the Chinese state company is in phase 3 in collaboration with the Wuhan Institute of Virology and has moved on to test it also outside its borders on volunteers in the United Arab Emirates; 3) the American company Moderna Therapeutics will enter phase 3 of its vaccine starting on Monday July 27 and will start testing it in 30. 000 people in different parts of the American Union; 4) the German company BioNTech, with an agreement with the American pharmaceutical company Pfizer, will advance to phase 3 before the end of July and will start testing on 30,000 volunteers; 5) the Chinese company CanSino Biologics in phase 2 is injecting its vaccine in its army soldiers and the Military Scientific Institute has participated; 6) another Chinese company, Sinovac Biotech, is also about to move to phase 3 and will test its immunization both locally and in Brazil.

Russia has said its vaccine is equally effective, the Russian press quotes both the Ministry of Defence and the Health Ministry, stating that it has been developed in collaboration with the Army and the National Centre for Epidemiology and Gamaleya Microbiology; the first to be injected are military. 

"Gamaleya’s candidate is a so-called viral vector vaccine based on human adenovirus — a common cold virus — fused with the spike protein of SARS CoV-2 to stimulate an immune response. It is similar to a vaccine being developed by China’s CanSino Biologics, which is already in phase 2 trials with plans for more in Canada." Defense said. 

Alexei Repik, director of R-Pharm, confirmed that the Russian pharmaceutical company he heads recently signed a collaboration agreement with the British company AstraZeneca so that they can produce the Oxford vaccine in Russia for export to countries in the Middle East and Asia. 

For its part, the U.S. Department of Health and the U.S. Department of Defense signed an agreement with Pfizer and BioNTech for $1.95 billion to purchase 100 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine. 

With so many vaccine projects, how many coronavirus vaccines will there be? Will each country be able to supply its own, or are there international rules about this? And what about countries that are not even researching how to obtain one and only have the option of buying it abroad? 

In the last press meeting I asked Barbosa about this to know the official position of WHO-PAHO, to which he answered that there is a lot of expectation around the world about vaccines and first of all "we still don't have the vaccine" that's why, the executive reiterated, it is very important to continue with preventive measures.

The vaccine must prove to be safe and effective throughout all pre-clinical trials; it is then tested in phase 1, 2 and 3 in humans and although the last phase is definitive, it can take months as it has to be applied to groups of between 30,000 and 50,000 people and see, one by one, the reactions and contraindications generated.  

But there will be vaccines, there will be, according to Barbosa, because there are dozens of other projects in phase 1 or phase 2 that could be in 2021 and that will allow "many opportunities" and then there is the challenge of "distributing them" equally. 

Barbosa reiterates the need for all countries to work in a coordinated way, in order to avoid some having it first and others being left in the last row in time. 

A view on the matter

I am concerned in recent days various versions have been circulating which report pressure from pharmaceutical companies on their national health authorities and on the major global drug regulators to hold them harmless in the event that the SARS-CoV-2 vaccines approved cause adverse effects.  

It should be noted that this rush has triggered a race for the vaccine so that in a matter of months it is ready to be produced when under normal conditions it would take years; science is trial and error.  

I fear that we will all end up being laboratory guinea pigs who, it is true, know about the health emergency, but we cannot deny that there is a deep pecuniary interest behind it. Will you, dear reader, get the vaccine against the coronavirus?