The Race for a Covid-19 Vaccine: The Current Status

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are currently more than 165 projects worldwide aiming to find a vaccine against SARS-CoV-2. Many projects are already at an advanced stage and testing of the vaccine on volunteers has begun. But what are the requirements for a corona vaccine and when can we expect a vaccine on the market?

Ideally, a corona vaccine would provide life-long protection without causing severe side effects. But experts are certain that no vaccine will be able to fulfill this ideal. Both the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) insist that a newly developed vaccine against coronavirus must be safe and that this must be proven in clinical studies. While the EMA has not yet commented on the efficacy of the vaccine, the FDA has announced that the vaccine must be at least 50% effective. This means that no more than half as many people are infected with the disease from a group of vaccinated persons than from a comparable group of unvaccinated persons.

How quickly a vaccine can actually be used depends not only on the speed of development and approval, but also on the available production capacities. It is therefore important that as many vaccines as possible are approved and can be produced using multiple production facilities. A large number of pharmaceutical companies have already announced plans to increase their production capacities. Some of them, including Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) and BioNTech/Pfizer, have already started large-scale production, although testing on volunteers has not yet been completed. They run the risk of having to destroy the goods already produced if the vaccines are not approved.

Once the vaccine is approved, will there be a vaccine for everyone? That depends on how many doses of vaccine pharmaceutical companies will produce. Both Janssen and Sanofi plan to produce one billion vaccine doses. Moderna and Lonza also plan to produce one billion vaccine doses, but on an annual basis.

Never before have pharmaceutical companies and research institutions reacted as quickly to a new pathogen as they did to the new corona virus Sars-CoV-2. Therefore, there is great hope that the first vaccination campaigns can start soon. AstraZeneca plans to provide the first 300 million doses already this year in September and October. Whether the international pharmaceutical company will be able to comply with this will become apparent in the coming weeks.

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