Coronavirus vaccine: three drugs in race to rid the world of Covid-19

So far, UK and US companies have announced three very different vaccines that they say studies show are effective in preventing Covid-19 while Russia says it also has a promising option

The race is on to be the first company to make a safe and effective coronavirus vaccine.

So far, three main partnerships have emerged as the front-runners to provide the world with the vaccine that could return life to normal for billions of people.

So what are the ones you need to know about and how do they work?

Pfizer/BioNTech

This month, the US-German venture published findings that their vaccine stops 90 per cent of people from developing symptoms of coronavirus. Injected into the muscle, the vaccine is given in two doses, three weeks apart.

It has been tested on 43,538 people in six countries including Turkey, the US and Germany.

The UK has already ordered 40 million doses. Pfizer had applied to get approval from the US Food and Drug Administration for emergency use of the vaccine. The FDA will meet on December 10 to discuss the authorisation.

Studies show that Pfizer’s vaccine is equally effective across ages and ethnicities.

Moderna

At anywhere between $25 and $37 a dose, like Pfizer, this vaccine uses a technology known as synthetic messenger RNA (mRNA) which has not been officially used before for infectious diseases.

In contrast to regular vaccines, which train the body’s immune system to respond to a bacteria or virus, mRNA vaccines actually dupe the body into producing its own virus.

“Using mRNA as a drug opens up a breadth of opportunities to treat and prevent disease. mRNA medicines can go inside cells to direct protein production, something not possible with other drug approaches,” Moderna said.

Experimentally, the Moderna vaccine is 94.5 per cent effective in preventing Covid-19.

Late stage trials are still under way, although the vaccine is being studied in 30,000 volunteers who received either the real thing or a dummy shot. Recently, an independent monitoring board examined 95 infections that were recorded after volunteers’ second shot, only five were in people given the vaccine. The company aims to file for emergency use with the FDA as well.

Oxford 

The University of Oxford announced on Monday that the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is currently 70.4 per cent effective at preventing the coronavirus. Tested in two different dosages, the vaccine proved to be 90 per cent and 62 per cent effective respectively, with more efficacy found in the higher dose. About 24,000 volunteers in the UK, Brazil and South Africa participated in the trials. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the news from Oxford "incredibly exciting" despite further safety checks being required.

Sputnik V

Named after the Soviet Union's Sputnik satellite, this two-dose vaccine is expected to cost less than $20 on international markets. Developed by Russia's Ministry of Health and its investment fund, trial results delivered 91.4 per cent efficacy in 18,794 volunteers.

Free of charge for Russians, the vaccine uses decades-long medical science involving human adenoviral vectors.

The Russian government said it had received requests from more than 50 countries for the vaccination, 1.2 billion doses of the vaccine in total.

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