Coronavirus vaccine update: Covid drug, AstraZeneca vaccine current status

The total number of coronavirus cases across the world has now crossed the 7-million mark. A little more than five months have passed since the world first learnt of the deadly SARS-CoV-2 infection. Since then, researchers are scrambling to produce vaccine and also to repurpose existing treatments to help fight the uncontrollable virus. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are move than 115 teams speeding up efforts to produce a vaccine or an effective drug for Covid-19 treatment. Major pharmaceutical companies such as Gilead Sciences, AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Moderna are rushing to find a successful vaccine and some of them have succeeded in many ways.

Coronavirus treatment: Here are updates on coronavirus vaccine/drug development:

1. Coronavirus vaccine: AstraZeneca approaches Gilead over possible merger

AstraZeneca approached one of its US rivals, Gilead Sciences, last month over a potential merger, Bloomberg has reported.

A transatlantic tie-up would be the biggest healthcare merger yet, forging a company worth around 200 billion pounds, and bringing together firms leading the pharmaceutical industry’s efforts to develop a vaccine and treatments for Covid-19.

2. Oxford University-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine status

AstraZeneca, which is developing AZD1222 vaccine in partnership with Oxford University, has said it is “on track” to roll out up to two billion doses of coronavirus vaccine in September. Meanwhile, the US has also said that it has already produced two million vaccine doses that are “ready to go” if they “check out for safety”.

3. CSL-University of Queensland coronavirus vaccine update

University of Queensland and CSL plan to produce up to 100 million doses of a Covid-19 vaccine, which uses an innovative ‘molecular clamp technology’, by the end of next year, according to an ABC news report. The home-grown vaccine has showed promising early results in the laboratory.

4. Moderna’s mRNA vaccine update

Moderna’s experimental coronavirus vaccine (mRNA-1273), like most other candidates that are in the works, attempts to train the immune system to recognise the SARS-CoV-2 virus’ spike protein, which the virus uses to bind to and enter host cells. The mRNA-1273 vaccine, which is currently in crucial Phase-II trials, entered into human trials just 66 days after SARS-CoV-2 was first sequenced.

5. China coronavirus vaccine update

China may deploy coronavirus vaccines as early as September to at-risk groups even if clinical trials have yet to be completed.

Health officials are drafting guidelines for administering vaccines under testing to priority groups, such as medical personnel, the latest sign Beijing is ramping up competition against the US to produce a global cure.

China has five vaccines in Phase-II human trials – more than any other country. Chinese biopharmaceutical company Sinovac Biotech has said that it is 99 per cent sure that its Covid-19 vaccine will work.

6. Pfizer-BNTECH vaccine update

Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, which is co-producing the vaccine with the help of German company BNTECH, has started the process of dosing patients. Four vaccine candidates devised out of messenger RNA (mRNA) format are being tested on volunteers to identify the most viable and suited vaccine of the four. The data is being shared with scientists in real time. The tests are currently going on in Germany and parts of the US.

Pfizer believes that a Covid-19 vaccine could be ready by the end of October 2020, according to The Times of Israel, which has cited Albert Bourla, the CEO of the firm.

7. Russia approves use of Covid-19 drug Avifavir

Russia has approved an anti-influenza drug, Aviifavir, to treat Covid-19 and will start delivering it to hospitals this month, according to Russia’s sovereign wealth fund.

8. Maharashtra willing to procure remdesivir from Bangladesh

The Maharashtra government has said it will procure the repurposed Ebola drug remdesivir to treat critical Covid-19 patients in the state at a price of Rs 12,000 per vial. Since the Indian manufacturers of the drug are yet to get the marketing authorisation for the drug and its innovator Gilead is yet to launch in the market, the state government is open to procuring it from Bangladesh.

9. AstraZeneca’s cancer drug

British-Swedish pharmaceuticals firm AstraZeneca’s cancer drug, Calquence, has shown initial signs of helping hospitalised Covid-19 patients overcome the disease, as researchers scramble to repurpose existing treatments to help fight the deadly infection. Eleven patients had been on oxygen when they started the 10-14-day Calquence course and eight of them could afterwards be discharged, breathing independently, according to results of the preliminary study.

10. Serum Institute of India (SII) vaccine update

Pune-based Serum Institute of India (SII) is a leading contender for vaccine development. The company, which is known to produce over 10 million doses of vaccines in a year for treating other diseases, has partnered with the University of Oxford to speed up the development of a safe and affordable coronavirus vaccine. While the Oxford University vaccine shows good success rates (and has reached the human clinical trial stage), SII is speeding up efforts to produce the vaccine and making sure that vaccine doses are available as early as October 2020.

BioNTech, Novavax, Sinovac, CanSino Biologics and Inovio Pharmaceuticals are among those leading the fight against coornavirus.

Why is there an urgency to develop coronavirus vaccine?

Widespread community transmission of Covid-19 in India and other parts of the world will be extremely challenging. Safe and effective Covid vaccines are the best bet to interrupt, and eventually stop, community transmission of the contagion.

How soon can the world expect a coronavirus vaccine?

A vaccine would normally take years, if not decades, to develop. But in this case, researchers hope to achieve the same amount of work in just a few months. Most experts think a vaccine is likely to become available by mid-2021.

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