There are currently more than 100 novel coronavirus vaccines under development, with about 10 of them moving to clinical trials. Companies such as Moderna and CanSino made news for their progress recently. Several weeks ago the American and Chinese trials began and both companies announced preliminary results. A full paper on the Phase 1 trial was published only by CanSino.
Another promising candidate for a COVID-19 vaccine is the Oxford vaccine, which started clinical trials a bit later but is now advancing to the test phases 2 and 3. Of all the candidates for COVID-19 vaccines, Oxford’s is the one that could be ready for use as soon as September.
All of these companies have, however, faced an unexpected problem, one that Oxford detailed a few days ago. There may not be enough sick people around to test the vaccine which may result in delays. The pandemic is far from over, but in some areas where such vaccines would be tested, including European countries and China, there are not as many cases. And without the pathogen moving freely within a community where the vaccine volunteers live, researchers can’t see if the vaccine is working.
AstraZeneca, the pharmaceutical giant who partnered with Oxford to produce the vaccine, has therefore confirmed that it is considering infecting volunteers with SARS-CoV-2.
“The problem we all have is we are running against time,” AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot said, says Bloomberg. “We see already in Europe the disease is declining. It’s still going in the UK, still going in the US. But very soon, the disease intensity will be low, and it will become difficult, so we have to move very quickly.”
At the same briefing, Johnson & Johnson’s CSO Paul Stoffels said that the disease is moving to other parts of the world, suggesting that vaccine trials could follow it. “Hopefully [trials] can be done in the north,” he said. “If not, we’ll have to go to the south.” China’s CanSino started trials in Canada for its vaccine candidate.