What Are The New Covid Vaccines?

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Two potential COVID-19 vaccine candidates have been announced by companies in the US. 

It’s the biggest development yet and means we could be one step closer to a successful vaccine against the virus, although there’s still a lot of research to be done on both candidates before one could be rolled out. 

So, what’s the story with these new vaccines?

What Do We Know About The New Covid Vaccines?

Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech first announced that they’d achieved encouraging results during the last stage of their clinical trials for a COVID-19 vaccine.  

They found that their vaccine had a 90% effectiveness rate at preventing COVID-19 symptoms.

Then just days later, a second company called Moderna announced that their vaccine had returned nearly 95% efficacy results. 

It’s really exciting because experts hadn’t predicted such high efficacy or such promising results before 2021. 

Only back in September the Oxford AstraZeneca trial had to be put on hold after a patient suffered adverse reactions to their vaccine, which really stumped people’s hopes for a successful vaccine this year.  

Now there are 11 COVID-19 vaccines in phase 3 clinical trials, but Pfizer and Moderna are the first to make an announcement like this. 

We spoke with Dr. Diego Silva from the University of Sydney. He is among other Australian experts who have some hesitations about these potential new vaccines. (We spoke with him about the Pfizer vaccine before news of the Moderna one broke.) 

Dr. Diego Silva: “So 90% effectiveness is fantastic, but I guess from my perspective and that of my colleagues we were quite guarded.

Any vaccine or drug will undergo three stages of testing in humans. So in the first phase you’re testing for safety. In the second phase you’re testing to see if you have some kind of [effectiveness]. And in the third phase, you’re testing a large population to see whether the effects you got in the first two phases can actually be replicated.

What’s critical is that the 90% effectiveness occurred in the first 90 something participants, which is great but there’s 40 plus thousand enrolled in this study and that’s for good reason.”

What we do know so far about the Pfizer vaccine is that patients need two doses of it and those doses need to be kept at minus 70 degrees Celsius to remain effective.  

Some experts think that in itself could lead to pretty big hurdles if it comes to storing and transporting global suppliesDr Silva thinks Pfizer probably should’ve given more weight to these hurdles in their press release, which announced findings that are yet to go through a peer-review process. 

The Moderna trial also gave patients two doses, but theirs is likely going to be easier to store, because it has been reported that it can remain stable between only 2 and 8 degrees Celsius, compared to Pfizer’s minus 70. 

What’s Going To Happen Now? 

Both Pfizer and Moderna are already planning to ask for permission from US regulators to distribute their vaccines. 

Moderna are hoping to produce up to a billion doses in 2021, and Australia has reportedly ordered 10 million doses of the Pfizer candidate, provided it meets the standards of our Therapeutic Goods Administration. 

But 10 million doses will only be enough for 5 million Australians, and there are concerns that we don’t even have a facility here that’s capable of manufacturing this particular vaccine. 

Dr. Silva told me that we don’t even know if the Pfizer vaccine will be the most successful option, especially given the new information about the Moderna candidate. But he also said that even if Pfizer isn’t the best, Australia will still be in a good position because the government has pooled over 3.3 billion dollars into four other vaccine options. Three of those are now in their third phase of testing. 

The Takeaway 

The announcement of two, strong potential vaccine candidates is an exciting development and it definitely offers up reasons to feel more optimistic about finding a successful COVID-19 vaccine.  

But ultimately both candidates still need more research, and governments around the world need to be having serious conversations about how a successful vaccine could be rolled out, when we eventually find one.