Two coronavirus vaccine candidates enter human trials
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has now confirmed that two possible vaccines have entered into the first phase of human clinical trials and another 60 possible vaccine candidates are in preclinical studies.
One of the possible vaccines, which have entered into human trials, was developed jointly by CanSino Biological Inc and Beijing Institute of Biotechnology and uses the same platform as Ebola.
The other vaccine which has entered the first phase of trials is from a US-based biotech firm Moderna and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
It was reported that the fact that the genetic material of Sars-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, was discovered early on, by the Chinese, has helped in speeding up the development of the vaccine.
A vaccine includes part of or all of the virus, which is then usually injected into the body, at a low dose, to kickstart the body into producing antibodies to the virus. These antibodies are the body’s fighters, which once present in the body, will provide immunity for the future. If one comes in contact with the virus again, in a natural way, these antibodies are quickly mobilised.
There are, however, some issues when it comes to developing vaccines. For a vaccine to provide immunisation, the virus has to, generally, enter the body in a live, weakened form, or through part or the whole of the virus once it has been inactivated by heat or chemicals. The live form can continue to develop in the body, which can make the recipient sick, whilst higher, or repeated doses of the inactivated form of the virus would be necessary to provide the necessary immunity.
Some of the COVID-19 vaccines being developed use this traditional approach but some are attempting to develop newer methods.
Human trials, also known as clinical trials, work in three phases and are essential before the vaccine can reach the market.
The first phase includes testing on healthy people to test the safety of the vaccine and to monitor for any adverse effects. The second phase includes those who have the virus, to see how effective the virus is, whilst the third phase is the same process but includes more people. It is very important that this phase is not rushed and that the candidates chosen for these trials satisfy the required criteria.
Usually, vaccines take very long to go from concept to the market, in the range of a decade, and whilst some COVID-19 potential vaccines have already reached the clinical trial phase, it is being reported that hoping for a vaccine to be produced within the year, is near to impossible.