China has offered to conduct human trials of novel Coronavirus vaccines in collaboration with Russian scientists, according to a report in the South China Morning Post.
The report said the idea of joint trials was floated by Zhong Nanshan, a top Chinese respiratory diseases expert, during a symposium with Russian scientists on Sunday. It said there was no mention of which candidate vaccine the Chinese scientist had in mind for joint testing, or whether the joint trials would be held in Russia or China.
Russia last week approved a vaccine candidate developed by Moscow’s Gamaleya Institute for public use. It’s the first novel Coronavirus vaccine to be approved for general use, but is being viewed with a lot of scepticism around the world due to the fact that it was approved without conducting phase-3 human trials, a mandatory requirement for approval of drugs and vaccines.
China has itself approved a novel Coronavirus vaccine in a similar fashion, without phase-3 trials, but it is currently meant to be administered only to soldiers to the People’s Liberation Army right now, and not to the general public.
At least six other vaccine candidates being developed by China are currently in human trials.
The speed with which China and Russia have approved their vaccines has raised concerns over the safety and effectiveness of these vaccines. Anthony Fauci, a leading infectious diseases expert in the United States, and one of the most trusted voices on the current pandemic, has been extremely sceptical of these efforts.
“I do hope the Chinese and the Russians are actually testing the vaccines before they are administering the vaccine to anyone. Because claims of having a vaccine ready to distribute before you do testing is problematic at the very least,” Fauci had said during a testimony to a panel of US lawmakers earlier this month, before Russia had actually approved the vaccine.
After the approval, he said he “seriously doubted” that the Russian vaccine was both safe and effective. “Having a vaccine… and proving that a vaccine is safe and effective are two different things. So, if we wanted to take the chance of hurting a lot of people or giving them something that doesn’t work, we could start doing this, you know, next week if we wanted to. But that’s not the way this works,” he was reported as saying.
Mexican president’s thumbs-up for Russian vaccine
Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador does not seem to have much doubts about the Russian vaccine, though. He is reported to have volunteered to try the Russian vaccine on himself.
“I would be the first to be vaccinated,” Lopez Obrador was quoted by Reuters as saying at a news conference on Monday.
Mexico is one of the worst affected countries with more than half a million people having been infected with novel Coronavirus till now. That is the seventh largest caseload in the world. It also has the third highest death count in the world, with more than 56,700 deaths having been recorded till now.
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Novavax enters into phase-2 trials
Novavax, a US biotech firm, has said it was beginning phase-2 human trials of its candidate vaccine for novel Coronavirus in South Africa. The company had conducted phase-1 trials in Australia that got completed last month.
The trial would be conducted on about 2600 volunteers. Phase-2 trials are about studying the effectiveness of the vaccine in human beings. Researchers attempt to ascertain whether the vaccine is able to trigger adequate immune response in the individuals to fight the disease.
Novavax is being considered one of the leading contenders to produce a successful novel Coronavirus vaccine, even though the company has not made any approved vaccine till date. The United States has already secured 100 million doses of the vaccine when it becomes ready and has committed US$ 1.6 billion to the company in one of the several deals it has stitched with pharmaceutical companies developing Coronavirus vaccines.
Pune-based Serum Institute of India has also entered into an agreement with Novavax to produce and supply its vaccine, when it is ready, in India and other middle and low income countries.
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Expert Group on vaccine holds meeting with Indian developers
The national expert group on vaccine administration, which is facilitating the logistics of making novel Coronavirus vaccines available in India, on Monday held discussions with the developers and manufacturers of the vaccine in the country.
Representatives of vaccine developers like Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech, Ahmedabad-based Zydus Cadila, and Pune-based Gennova Biopharmaceuticals were present at the meeting. And so were representatives of manufacturers like Serum Institute of India and Hyderabad-headquartered Biological E.
The pharmaceutical companies briefed the expert group about the present status of the vaccines being developed in India, and the preparations being made to manufacture and supply other vaccines being developed elsewhere in the world. They also told the expert group about the expectations the industry had from the government in this regard.
Hunt for a coronavirus vaccine: the story so far
- More than 160 vaccine candidates in pre-clinical or clinical trials
- 29 of them in clinical trials
- Six in final stages, phase-III of human trials
- At least eight candidate vaccines being developed in India. Two of these have entered phase -II trials after completing phase-I.
(As on August 13; source: WHO Coronavirus vaccine landscape of August 13, 2020)
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