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COVID-19 Vaccine Update, Sept 24: Johnson & Johnson candidate enters phase-3 trials

Coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine update, September 24: The candidate vaccines of AstraZeneca-Oxford, Pfizer and Moderna are already undergoing phase-3 trials in the US. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine could potentially be a single-shot vaccine.

Large banners hang in an atrium at the headquarters of Johnson & Johnson in New Brunswick, N.J. (AP Photo/Mel Evans, File)

Coronavirus vaccine tracker: A coronavirus vaccine being developed by Johnson & Johnson started phase-3 clinical trials in the United States on Wednesday, becoming the fourth company to reach this stage. The candidate vaccines of AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Moderna are already undergoing phase-3 trials in the US, though there is a pause on the AstraZeneca trials for the time being.

There is some additional excitement with regard to the Johnson & Johnson candidate since it is the first one that could potentially be a single-shot vaccine. All the other leading contenders right now would require double, or multiple doses, to remain effective. The Johnson & Johnson candidate has been developed a single-dose vaccine, but only the results of phase-3 trials would be able to establish whether it is effective as a single-dose vaccine or not.

Single-dose vaccines have obvious advantages, especially in current emergency situation. Double the number of people can be vaccinated compared to other candidates, which would lead to faster deployment, and reduced costs.


The Johnson & Johnson trials are also planned to be the biggest till now. The company plans to enrol 60,000 participants for the trials. Pfizer is testing its vaccine on 44,000 participants, while Moderna and AstraZeneca have enrolled about 30,000 each.

Johnson & Johnson said it expected to know by December whether its vaccine was effective or not. That is more or less in line with the schedules announced by Modern and AstraZeneca as well. Pfizer, on the other hand, has said it hoped to get the effectiveness data by the end of October itself. If the results are satisfactory, it intends to immediately apply for emergency authorisation. The Food and Drug Administration, the regulatory body in the United States, has said it was open to granting emergency use authorisation even before the completion of phase-3 trials, if the benefits outweighed the risks.

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A single-dose Covid-19 vaccine being developed by Johnson & Johnson. (Cheryl Gerber/Courtesy of Johnson & Johnson via AP)

Bharat Biotech to produce a nasal coronavirus vaccine being developed by US University

Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech will manufacture and distribute one billion doses of a nasal coronavirus vaccine being developed by Washington University School of Medicine in the United States.

Clinical trials for this vaccine candidate are yet to begin, the Indian company has obtained exclusive rights to manufacture and distribute the vaccine in all markets, except the United States, Europe and Japan.

Bharat Biotech is developing its own coronavirus vaccine as well, called Covaxin. That candidate is in phase-2 trials right now.

Also in Explained | How nasal vaccines work: utility, concerns

The vaccine being developed by Washington University School of Medicine is expected to require only single dose. Bharat Biotech CMD Krishna Ella said a nasal vaccine was not just simpler to administer but it also reduces the use of other medical consumables like needles and syringes, thereby significantly lowering the costs.

Hunt for a coronavirus vaccine: The story so far

The ones most talked about:

* AstraZeneca/Oxford University
* Moderna
* Pfizer/BioNTech
* Johnson & Johnson
* Sanofi/GlaxoSmithKline
* Novavax
* Russian vaccine, developed by Gamaleya Insttiute in Moscow
* Three Chinese vaccines that have been approved for use in China without phase-3 trials being completed. One of them has been given emergency use authorisation in UAE

(As on September 23; source: WHO Coronavirus vaccine landscape of September 22, 2020)

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