The Ongoing Search for a Covid-19 Vaccine

The Ongoing Search for a Covid-19 Vaccine

Camille Furer and Sydney Lavin

Since the original Covid-19 outbreak in 2019, scientists around the world have been working toward finding a vaccine for the virus and mitigating the spread of the pandemic.

Usually, the process of creating, testing and distributing a safe vaccine spans over several years, but scientists are working at record speeds to find a vaccine by 2021 to respond to the widespread deaths caused by the coronavirus. The CDC website details how the CDC stamp of approval is the final step before a vaccine is administered to the public. 

Before this, scientists work through many trials and tests with various groups of people. Phase 1 trials typically have less than 100 individuals and last a few months.

Phase 2 encompasses a larger population and lasts several months, aiming to find common reactions people have to the vaccine and the amount of necessary doses for the patient.

Lastly, Phase 3 involves up to thousands of people and typically lasts several years—a time-span that is not possible for COVID-19 due to the urgent need for a vaccine.

Currently, the most advanced vaccine is titled “ChAdOx1 nCoV-19,” also known as the Oxford vaccine. Scientists have begun the Phase 3 trials with this vaccine. The US Department of Health and Human Services has said they would give around 1.2 billion dollars to AstraZeneca pharmaceutical (the company aiding Oxford University in developing a vaccine) to help the process and production of a vaccine, according to livescience.org.

This is a part of The Trump Administration’s “Operation Warp Speed” to develop, manufacture, and distribute a vaccine for COVID-19 as soon as possible. 

Currently, 15 countries are exploring 31 COVID-19 vaccines that are in various stages of human clinical trials. There are 11 vaccines in the phase one clinical trial in countries including China, Taiwan, United Kingdom, Russia, Australia, Canada, Italy and France.

In phase 1 and 2, there are 13 trials in 8 countries. In phase 1, 2 and 3 there are 7 trials in 4 countries. Each country and organization uses a different technique. The Moderna and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in the U.S. is using the RNA vaccine and is almost in Phase 3.

Sinovac, Beijing Institute of Biological Products and Sinopharm, and Wuhan Institute of Biological Products and Sinopharm in China are using the Inactivated vaccine.

The types of vaccine techniques used for COVID-19 range among RNA/DNA, protein subunit, viral vector, inactivated, and virus-like particle vaccines. RNA/DNA focuses on copying the virus to produce the vaccine, while protein subunit utilizes proteins from the virus that are injected into the body.

Viral vector involves using dead virus cells that include genetic material from the coronavirus, which strengthens the response of the immune system in fighting the infection. The Inactivated vaccine builds antibodies by targeting the immune system with a weakened form of the coronavirus.

Virus-like particle vaccine copies the structure of the virus. However, the Virus-like particle vaccine does not directly include genetic material.