Covid-19 (Coronavirus) latest update: With the search for a Covid-19 vaccine becoming nothing less than the holy grail for scientists, enormous attention and funding have been focused on developing and mass-producing an injection. The rapid spread of SARS-nCov-2 has led experts to declare that it would continue to spread if a vaccine cannot be found.
In latest developments, British pharma giant AstraZeneca, which is developing a vaccine in partnership with Oxford University, said it was “on track” to roll out up to two billion doses in September. Meanwhile, US also said that it had already produced two million vaccine doses that are “ready to go” if they “check out for safety”.
Additionally, India has pledged $15 million to vaccine alliance GAVI at the Global Vaccine Summit hosted by the UK. Addressing the summit, Prime Minister Modi said, “Our support to Gavi is not only financial. India’s huge demand brings down the global price of vaccines.”
Covid-19 (Coronavirus) vaccine latest updates
💉 British pharma giant AstraZeneca has started to mass-produce its experimental AZD1222 vaccine, being developed by Oxford University, and plans to roll out up to two billion doses of a coronavirus vaccine in September.
“So far we’re still on track… we are starting to manufacture this vaccine right now, and we have to have it ready to be used by the time we have the results,” AstraZeneca chief executive Pascal Soriot told BBC radio. “Our present assumption is that we will have the data by the end of the summer, by August, so in September we should know whether we have an effective vaccine or not,” he further said.
AstraZeneca announced this week it had struck agreements with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi, and the Serum Institute of India to double production capacity of the vaccine to two billion doses. The partnership with the Indian institute — one of the world’s largest vaccine manufacturers — will help supply it to a large number of low- and middle-income countries, AFP reported.
Oxford University began initial trials of its Covid-19 vaccine with hundreds of volunteers in April, and is now expanding them to 10,000 participants. Researchers announced this week they would start tests in mid-June in Brazil, the first country outside Britain to take part in the study.
The Cambridge-based firm has signed deals to produce 400 million doses for the US and 100 million for the UK if it is successful in human trials.
Meanwhile, a Bloomberg report said AstraZeneca had approached US rival Gilead Sciences about a possible merger to form one the world’s largest drug companies.Such a deal would unite two of the drug makers at the forefront of the industry’s efforts to fight the new coronavirus.
💉 University of Queensland has partnered with pharmaceutical giant CSL to produce up to 100 million doses of a Covid-19 vaccine, which uses an innovative ‘molecular clamp technology’, by the end of next year, according to a ABC news report.
The home-grown vaccine has showed promising early results in the laboratory following which a deal has been struck between the University of Queensland (UQ), CSL and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) to fund human trials, which will start next month.
UQ researcher Paul Young said 120 people would be recruited for the first trial to test the vaccine’s safety and monitor the impact on the immune system. Next, a further 800 to 1,000 people will take part in the next stage of the vaccine trial.
The ‘molecular clamp technology’ used to develop the jab involves the use of a “backbone” in the vaccine, which can be rapidly adapted for use against different pathogens by inserting new genetic or protein sequences, the report said. It is designed to stimulate an immune response and protect people against developing Covid-19. In the human trials, a boosting agent will be added with the aim of increasing the vaccine’s effectiveness.
💉 Japan Health Minister has recently said the country was aiming to put coronavirus vaccines into use by June 2021 — in time before hosting the Tokyo Olympics, originally planned for this summer.
“We strive for the soonest implementation of the vaccination, the goal is the first half of 2021. We will be securing production facilities in parallel with expedited vaccine development,” Japan’s Health Minister Katsunobu Kato told reporters.
The Japanese government has earmarked 146 billion yen ($1.34 billion) for vaccine production and distribution. Japanese pharmaceutical firms developing coronavirus vaccines include Shionogi & Co and AnGes Inc.
💉 Singapore, which is developing therapeutic monoclonal antibodies as well as a vaccine and have started clinical trials, recently said it was ramping up its vaccine manufacturing capacity in order to offer “fill and finish” contract manufacturing services to vaccine developers
“The effort is aimed at helping companies ramp up production faster and assure them high standards of safety and quality in the manufacturing process,” Bloomberg quoted Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong as saying at a summit.
Singapore researchers have developed a range of serological and nucleic acid-based diagnostic tests, which have been deployed to over 20 countries.
WHO new guidelines for wearing masks
The new guidelines on face masks are a move away from what WHO said previously. So far, it maintained that there was not enough evidence to suggest that healthy individuals should wear masks and encouraged the use of medical face masks only by those who were sick or caring for the sick. Now, in the revised guidelines it suggests that everyone should wear fabric masks (non-medical) in public. Fabric masks should contain at least three layers of different materials. On the other hand, any person showing the symptoms of COVID-19 should wear a medical mask apart from self-isolating and seeking medical advice as soon as they feel unwell.
💉 President Donald Trump has said the US had already produced two million coronavirus vaccine doses that were “ready to go” once scientists figure out whether it is safe and effective.
“Tremendous progress is being made on vaccines. In fact, we’re ready to go in terms of transportation and logistics. We have over 2 million ready to go if it checks out for safety,” Trump said during a news conference from the White House. He, however, didn’t say which ones have started vaccine production.
Last week, an NYT report said the administration had selected five companies, including Moderna Inc, AstraZeneca Plc and Pfizer Inc, as the most likely candidates to produce a vaccine for the coronavirus. The other companies are Johnson & Johnson and Merck & Co Inc.
The National Institutes of Health has been fast-tracking work with biotech firm Moderna on its mRNA-1273 vaccine candidate to prevent Covid-19. Moderna Inc, which is presently conducting Stage II trials, is looking to start the final phase of trials as early as July.
Earlier this month, Moderna had released early-stage data that showed the vaccine successfully produced protective antibodies in a small group of healthy volunteers.
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