Coronavirus update: The race to develop a COVID-19 vaccine

There are currently over 70 COVID-19 vaccines in development worldwide.

By Omnia Health Insights

A number of countries have now started to report that the rate of COVID-19 cases has started to decline. However, the progress that is being watched even more closely is the development of a Coronavirus vaccine.

It normally takes years to develop, approve and produce an effective vaccine. But due to the need of the hour, there are currently over 70 COVID-19 vaccines in development worldwide, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Creating a safe vaccine would provide some protection by training people's immune systems to fight the virus so they don’t get infected. It would, therefore, allow lockdowns to be lifted and social distancing rules to be relaxed. Below we take a look at the progress of a few developments:

Oxford COVID-19 vaccine begins human trial stage

University of Oxford researchers have begun testing a COVID-19 vaccine in human volunteers. Around 1,110 people will take part in the trial, half receiving the vaccine and the other half (the control group) receiving a widely available meningitis vaccine. They will reportedly have a million doses ready for use by September.

The researchers started screening healthy volunteers (aged 18-55) in March for their upcoming ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine trial. The vaccine is based on an adenovirus vaccine vector and the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein and has been produced in Oxford, UK.

It aims to assess whether healthy people can be protected from COVID-19 with this new vaccine called ChAdOx1 nCoV-19. It will also provide information on the safety aspects of the vaccine and its ability to generate good immune responses against the virus.

ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 is made from a virus (ChAdOx1), which is a weakened version of a common cold virus (adenovirus) that causes infections in chimpanzees, that has been genetically changed so that it is impossible for it to grow in humans.

Genetic material has been added to the ChAdOx1 construct, that is used to make proteins from the COVID-19 virus (SARS-CoV-2) called Spike glycoprotein (S). This protein is usually found on the surface of SARS-CoV-2 and plays an essential role in the infection pathway of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus uses its spike protein to bind to ACE2 receptors on human cells to gain entry to the cells and cause an infection.

By vaccinating with ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, the hope is to make the body recognise and develop an immune response to the Spike protein that will help stop the SARS-CoV-2 virus from entering human cells and therefore prevent infection.

Vaccines made from the ChAdOx1 virus have been given to more than 320 people to date and have been shown to be safe and well-tolerated, although they can cause temporary side effects, such as a temperature, headache or sore arm.

The University of Oxford recently also announced an agreement with the UK-based global biopharmaceutical company AstraZeneca for the further development, large-scale manufacture and potential distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine being trialled.