Other than our constant question as to when the world would get rid of the pandemic, one question that keeps crossing everyone’s mind is when the COVID-19 vaccine will be available.

The answer is not as simple as giving a date for the availability of the vaccine. Developing a vaccine is not a day’s job or cannot be developed overnight with a magic spell. Developing a vaccine is also not one person or one company’s job. It involves a lot of testing and an improvement phase, before the vaccine actually makes it to the market for people to use.

As of November 2020, more than 150 COVID-19 vaccines have made it to the development cut around the world with high hopes to be able to bring THE ONE to the market. Countries across the globe, including the US, India, and UK to name a few have initiated campaigns and several efforts to help make the development of such a vaccine possible.

The U.S. government’s Operation Warp Speed initiative has pledged $10 billion and aims to develop and deliver 300 million doses of a safe, effective coronavirus vaccine by January 2021. The project is a partnership among components of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Defense to help develop, make, and distribute millions of vaccine doses for COVID-19 as quickly as possible.

However, getting a vaccine made is not a task that can be achieved overnight. In usual circumstances, it takes about 15 years for a vaccine to actually make it to the market while being available for people to make use of it. There is a whole lot of trial and approval procedure involved before the testing phase. The testing procedure is a lengthy process in itself that can take up to years before the final product gets approval.

On November 23, AstraZeneca announced interim results from two of its phase three clinical trials being conducted on the development of a vaccine for COVID-19. The one trial that was conducted in the UK showed that the vaccine was 90% effective in making sure that people are protected from the virus, only by getting half a dose of the formula which will be followed by the other half a month later. However, in an experiment conducted in Brazil in the second phase of the trial, the effectiveness of the vaccine dropped to 62%. As per the staff working on the development of this vaccine, the formula can be used under an emergency use listing by the WHO that plans to distribute the vaccine to underdeveloped countries. Around three billion doses of this vaccine by AstraZeneca is expected to be produced in 2021.

On November 20, Pfizer and BioNTech released a statement by saying that they were filing an emergency authorization from the FDA. The statement came just two days after having completed their three phase trials of the vaccine. According to the pharmaceuticals, they have met their targeted outcomes in developing a vaccine for the virus. According to their trials, the vaccine in scrutiny showed 95% effectiveness in helping recover serious COVID-19 cases. There has been a vaccine delivery pilot program launched under the supervision of Pfizer in four US states, New Mexico, Texas, Tennessee, and Rhode Island, to help with the deployment process of the vaccine as soon as possible. However on December 2, the UK became the first country in the world to approve the vaccine for widespread use, with getting 40 million doses in due course. On December 8, a 90 year old woman, Margaret Keenan became the first COVID-19 affected patient to receive the vaccine at the University Hospital in Coventry.

As per the FDA, if and when the first vaccine gets an approval to be available in the markets, there will be a limited supply of available, especially in the US. This obviously means that not everyone, even in the four states listed above will be able to have complete access to it. Getting access to the vaccine also highly depends on which countries and communities groups are at more risk from the virus. Age, for instance, is COVID-19’s biggest enemy.

This is one of the reasons why the FDA had started investing in select vaccine manufacturers external icon to be able to increase the ability of the distribution of the much-awaited vaccine. The idea is to increase the supply so that most demands are met. With more companies developing the vaccine and getting through with the three-stage trial process, this is possible.

Trials play a huge role in getting the vaccine approved by the regulators which should not be avoided at any cost. There is still limited research to prove the actual outcomes of the vaccine that has passed the test. According to the World Health Organization’s recent data, at least 70% of the entire world’s population must be immune to help get rid of this pandemic.

 

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Haddiqua Siddiqui

By Haddiqua Siddiqui

Editorial Fellow