5/18 Weekly Coronavirus Roundup: medical race, leaked Pentagon memo, and more about the vaccine

Novavax scientists working on a vaccine.
ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

This was a big week for the development of many vaccines. As many companies race each other to be the first with a vaccine- progress is being made.

First off, Pfizer and Moderna are making serious progress with their vaccines.

Pfizer vaccine

American pharmaceutical corporation Pfizer is partnering with German drugmaker BioNTech to make a vaccine. Making ambitious decisions and goals, they’re planning to have their version of the vaccine ready by 2021.

According to CEO Albert Bourla, these plans will go accordingly if tests go smoothly, volunteers don’t get sick, and they get FDA/EMA approval. If all the stars line up, thousands of tests will be administered in September. With so much money going into new labs and resources, Pfizer is betting on beating the 12-18 month vaccine arrival estimate given by U.S health officials.

Pfizer is putting their all into a new type of vaccine. This vaccine is based on mRNA. Seeing as these types of vaccines have never been put on the market before, there has to be some serious advantages to them, and there are. The most prevalent ones are safety, efficiency, and availability of the virus for testing. If the vaccine is approved, it will be much faster to produce than a traditional DNA-based vaccine. All companies researcing vaccines are taking this route, too. An example would be Moderna.

Moderna vaccine

Moderna is also seeing significant progress on their version of the vaccine.

After a lengthy test on mice, their vaccine (named mRNA-1273), has been proven to help eight selected individuals develop antibodies against the virus. All of the volunteers were healthy people aged from 18-25. Three people in the test developed mild flu-like symptoms. They were given a dosage of 250 micrograms. Future tests will be from 25-100 micrograms. This is in contrast with Chinese company CanSino Biologics plan to continue testing with different dosages. Much like the Pfizer testing, older people will be tested in Phase 2 of testing. The testing is broken up in phases to help modify and correct the vaccine.

Moderna plans for Phase 3 testing to begin in July if all goes well. This would allow for the vaccine to be ready by the end of 2021.

CanSino Biologics vaccine

Another difference between Moderna and CanSino Biologics testing is that CanSino has already started testing on patients aged up to 60 years old. They also gave three groups of 36 people different dosages- ranged from low to high. Much like American vaccines, the patients in Phase 1 experience mild fever symptoms. Currently in Phase 2 testing with 500 individuals, CanSino seems to be ahead of American companies.

Despite this, they still estimate that the vaccine won’t be ready until the first half of 2021.

Experts state that all of this competition for a vaccine is a good thing, however. The demand will be incredibly high and many vaccines will help suffice those needs.

The leaked Pentagon memo

It seems like the Pentagon is also planning on the vaccine coming in the first half of 2021.

Task and Purpose reported on a leaked memo from the Pentagon. The memo states that there will be a COVID-19 resurgence that the Defense Department should prepare for. Plans need to be made for a continuation of “training exercises, increased operational tempo, and the repositioning of forces and supplies to fight the global pandemic”.

A more specific timeframe for the vaccine was given in the form of March, 2021. This was given by Army researchers who have been watching the progress of vaccines. Some experts still claim that it’ll take even longer than this.

What does this all mean?

It’s safe to say that despite all the amazing developments being made, it’ll still take a few more months at the very least. Governments are planning for the future to be riddled with COVID-19 obstacles, and companies are still facing the virus head-on in the race to be first.

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