Progress on a COVID-19 Vaccine!

Great news recently appeared that I am very excited to share — please pass this on to your friends and family!

According to a post on 4.30.2020 by Sebastian Siebt, a vaccine against COVID-19 developed at Oxford University, UK has shown extremely positive results when tested on macaque monkeys. 

These animals are very close in genetic makeup to humans, which suggests the vaccine could work similarly on us. The scientists working on the vaccine say it could be ready as soon as September of this year.

The scientific name for the vaccine is ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 and it has just shot ahead to become the most promising potential vaccine against the novel coronavirus. British drug maker AstraZeneca said it would help Oxford develop, produce, and distribute the vaccine. The partnership hopes to produce 100 million doses by the end of the year!

The first good news came last week from a laboratory in Montana, where six rhesus macaques, who received a dose of the British vaccine last month, did not contract COVID-19 after being exposed to it. Other monkeys who had not been vaccinated caught the virus and fell ill.

Morgane Bomsel, a molecular biologist working on COVID-19 at the Cochin Institute in Paris, considers the results very encouraging, but warns against celebrating too soon as results have not yet been scientifically reviewed and published. 

Meanwhile, work on the ChAdOx1 nCov-19 vaccine is moving ahead quickly in Britain. On April 24, the Oxford vaccine was the first in Europe to enter the human trial stage, with 1,110 healthy volunteers recruited for the tests.

Next Steps in Vaccine Development

It is important to ensure that the vaccine is not toxic for the human body; before checking whether it protects from COVID-19, the researchers first need to guarantee that it is not dangerous.

The next step is to “take samples from the subjects to check for the presence of antibodies and the effectiveness of the vaccine against the coronavirus.”

If the trial produces positive results, millions of doses of ChAdOx1 nCov-19 could be available as early as September, Oxford researchers told the New York Times, months ahead of other known efforts. Typically, it takes about 18 months, so that is very fast!

The Oxford scientists might be able to work at record speed because this vaccine isn’t totally new. The researchers used a technological platform with which they already have quite a lot of experience.

The core of the vaccine, ChAdOx1, is an adenovirus that belongs to a family of viruses that have a mild effect on humans and chimpanzees.  It is then combined with parts of another virus to make a vaccine. 

For the current coronavirus, researchers simply “added the surface protein of COVID-19 to ChAdOx1.” The Oxford scientists were quickly able to adapt it to the current pandemic and develop the clinical trial protocols.

Ring Vaccination Strategy

Even if the results of the clinical trial currently under way end up being promising, it will still be a little early to celebrate.

Phase III of the vaccine’s development, will be to administer it to volunteers who will then be released back into their regular environments where they could be exposed naturally to the virus.

The idea is to administer the vaccine to members of the first circle of contacts of people who fall ill with the virus, and then to observe whether the virus contaminates the second circle. That way, it’s possible both to vaccinate and to evaluate.

This was done during the 2018 Ebola epidemic in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and could be replicated to fight against Covid-19.

While the experts recognize that the work of the Oxford team was very promising, they said other possible vaccines, like those being developed by the American pharmaceutical companies Inovio and Moderna, might also be in advanced stages of research by the autumn.

Despite the encouraging news, there is no guarantee that the vaccines will work. But even if the efforts at Oxford University are not completely successful we will have learned a lot about how the body’s immune system fights this virus and it is likely that it will still reduce the severity of the virus, which is a great silver lining!

Posted in: Blog, Informative

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