06Jun

Researchers are making so much progress in developing a vaccine against COVID-19 that the first wide-scale testing could begin in a matter of weeks.

The New York Times Coronavirus Vaccine Tracker says a vaccine developed by the 10-year-old biotech company Moderna expects to start wide-scale testing this month. If it does, it would mark an almost unprecedented acceleration of the clinical testing process.

Typically, testing and approving a new vaccine takes two or three years. Sometimes more. But under the federal government’s Operation Warp Speed, Modena received a fast-track designation from the Food and Drug Administration. It also got a $483 million award to further its Covid-19 vaccine.

Through its Coronavirus Vaccine Tracker The Times is updating the status of all the vaccines that have reached human testing, along with a selection of promising vaccines still being tested in cells or animals. Because of the number and especially speed at which bioscience and pharmaceutical firms are moving to develop a successful vaccine, the Tracker is being updated almost every day.

The World Health Organization lists 149 different vaccine projects underway worldwide. 17 are in clinical evaluation, meaning they are being tested in humans, either in small groups to ensure their safety and basic efficacy, or in hundreds to see the effect among different age groups.

The Vaccine Tracker lists five vaccine candidates that are in or about to launch Phase III testing, the broadest testing category where thousands of volunteers are enlisted to determine if the vaccine is widely effective and how well it protects people from becoming infected. That’s the test Moderna expects to begin soon.

A vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford is already in Phase III testing in Brazil and South Africa and is in a simultaneous Phase II and III study in Europe. This program, like Moderna’s, is part of Operation Warp Speed.

The Vaccine Tracker lists two Chinese firms – Sinovac Biotech and Sinopharm – as ready to soon start broad testing of their respective vaccines. Sinopharm’s testing will be conducted in the United Arab Emirates. Sinovac plans to conduct its Phase III study in China and Brazil.

A fifth vaccine, which is not a vaccine specifically for COVID-19, but a sort of immune system booster, is being tested in Australia. Bacillus Calmette-Guerin, a vaccine originally developed for tuberculosis, has been found over its 100 year history to help fight off other types of infections and parasites. The Phase III testing will determine if it also helps protect against COVID-19.

Image by Angelo Esslinger

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Green Key
Jun 6, 2023

Study Says Vaccination Is Saving Children’s Lives

Vaccinations against such common diseases as measles, hepatitis and human papillomavirus saved 37 million deaths in low- and middle-income countries over the last two decades and by 2030 will have prevented 32 million more.

And no group has benefited more than the youngest children.

According to research reported last month in The Lancet, deaths among children under 5 from the 10 diseases i n the study would have been 45% higher if they had not been vaccinated.

“There has been a much-needed investment in childhood vaccination programs in low-income and middle-income countries (LMICs) and this has led to an increase in the number of children vaccinated,” observed study co-author Dr. Caroline Trotter of the University of Cambridge UK. “Our modelling has provided robust evidence on the effectiveness of vaccination programs in LMICs and indicated what might be lost if current vaccination programs are not sustained.”

The study involved 16 independent research groups modelling the impact of childhood vaccination programs against 10 diseases in 98 LMICs. Multiple models were applied for each pathogen. Estimates of impact were based on past and future coverage of individual vaccines, vaccine effectiveness and data on deaths caused by the diseases, and on the years of healthy life lost due to premature death and disability from the diseases.

By comparing a scenario with no vaccination programs in place to scenarios when vaccinations programs were implemented, the study estimated the impact on deaths and on years of healthy life lost due to premature death and disability from the diseases.

Measles vaccinations offered the greatest impact, the researchers found. Between 2000 and 2030, the study estimated they will have prevented 56 million deaths.

Over the lifetime of people born in those three decades, being vaccinated against all 10 diseases in the study is estimated to prevent 120 million deaths, of which 65 million are children younger than five years. 58 million of deaths would be prevented by measles vaccinations alone and 38 million by hepatitis B vaccines.

Considering just those born in 2019, the study estimated that increases in vaccine coverage and introductions of additional vaccines will mean a 72% reduction in lifetime mortality caused by the 10 pathogens.

Said Neil Ferguson, a co-author of the report and a professor at Imperial College London, UK, “Our study signifies the huge public health benefits that can be achieved from vaccination programs in low-income and middle-income countries.

“By projecting up until 2030 in these 98 countries we have provided insight on where investments in vaccine coverage should be directed to achieve further gains.”

Photo by CDC

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