Nearly a dozen pharmaceutical companies across the globe are working on vaccines for COVID-19, and some are set to go into final testing as early as next month.
Health officials have warned that a vaccine could take up to 18 months, but that turned out to be wrong (like so many other assertions by those same officials). Because SARS-CoV-2 is a coronavirus, about which much is already known, experts now predict a vaccine could be created and widespread before the end of the year.
“The first experimental COVID-19 vaccine in the U.S. is on track to begin a huge study next month to prove if it really can fend off the coronavirus, while hard-hit Brazil is testing a different shot from China,” the Associated Press reported on Thursday.
Moderna Inc. said Thursday the vaccine it is developing with the National Institutes of Health will be tested in 30,000 people in the U.S. Some will get the real shot and some a dummy shot, as scientists carefully compare which group winds up with the most infections.
With far fewer COVID-19 cases in China, Sinovac Biotech turned to Brazil, the epicenter of Latin America’s outbreak, for at least part of its final testing. The government of São Paulo announced Thursday that Sinovac will ship enough of its experimental vaccine to test in 9,000 Brazilians starting next month.
If it works, “with this vaccine we will be able to immunize millions of Brazilians,” said São Paulo´s Gov. Joao Doria.
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In May, the Trump administration set up an initiative called “Operation Warp Speed,” which combines private pharmaceutical companies, government agencies and the military in an effort to crunch down the time it takes to produce a vaccine.
The first potential vaccine began human testing in mid-March. The National Institutes of Health is funding that trial, which is taking place in Seattle at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute. That testing began with 45 young, healthy volunteers who have been injected with different doses of shots co-developed by NIH and Moderna Inc.
In April, a first set of tests in mice of a potential vaccine to prevent COVID-19 showed it can spur the animals’ immune systems to produce antibodies against the coronavirus.
The vaccine is delivered via a fingertip-sized, Band-Aid-like patch made of 400 tiny needles that scratch the skin. The researchers who are developing the vaccine say the immune system reacts more readily to irritations of the skin, which means doing so could trigger it to target the coronavirus. When tested on mice, they developed antibodies to fight the coronavirus within two weeks.