According to the World Health Organization, two potential vaccine candidates stand out among the seven currently in clinical evaluation. While some may be cautiously optimistic, please keep in mind that lab results don’t always translate the way we want in humans. But, one of these potential vaccines looks promising based on results from animal studies.
Oxford University researchers in the U.K. have tried their vaccine in six monkeys. Twenty-eight days after exposing these monkeys to the coronavirus, all six remained healthy. This type of animal trial is encouraging because monkeys are the closest animal to humans, so test results will be more reliable than experiments using other animals. But, since they aren’t humans, there is still no guarantee the vaccine will work as well. However, human trials are set to begin by the end of May 2020. With more than 6,000 people in the clinical trial, we should know more soon. If the vaccine proves effective, scientists at Oxford are confident in their ability to produce the vaccine in the millions as early as September 2020.
Another Experimental Vaccine
The other experimental vaccine frontrunner, called BNT162, is being developed by Pfizer, a New York City-based pharmaceutical corporation and a biotech company in Germany. They expect around 200 volunteers to take part in a study in Germany where it’s already been given to 12 patients. These companies say that, if all goes well, they could have millions of vaccines available by the end of the year.
As for which of these two options is superior, we’ll have to wait to see data from the clinical trials. It may even be beneficial to have different vaccines available for different demographics – say the young and elderly vs. adults.
While some companies are developing vaccines, others are still diligently working on an array of investigational therapies. Some are focused on developing antibodies to treat COVID-19 while others are working on experimental drugs. And others still are targeting specific symptoms with drugs such as Actemra, which is used for rheumatoid arthritis. Actemra is currently in stage 3 of testing for COVID-19 patients who also developed a severe case of pneumonia. And there are also those focused on another rheumatoid arthritis drug, Kevzara, that may ease fevers and the need for supplemental oxygen. Even still, the frontrunner continues to be Remdesivir. On Wednesday, April 29, 2020, Gilead Sciences said they are “aware of positive data” coming out of a federal study. While we don’t have any more details than that, I expect we’ll hear more soon.