Increasing cases of Covid-19 resulting from infection with SARS-CoV-2 has raised serious concern over the effectiveness of the ongoing vaccine trials.
And the one question looms large:
How well does the Covid-19 vaccine develop so far will be effective against the novel coronavirus spinoffs?
A chief scientist from FDA has stated that “The Virus is telling us that it’s going to develop a lot of mutations, and even if we don’t have a critical situation right now but there is a possibility that variants of SARS- CoV-2 will continue to evolve that have the potential to avoid vaccine immunity.
Across the globe, many countries such as the US, South Africa, and Brazil have identified different strains of SARA-Cov-2.
Many studies revealed that the ongoing vaccines that are being used for treatment can identify the strain. But these vaccines are unable to provide enough protection to save human lives.
For instance, the variant from South Africa has reduced Pfizer- BioNTech’s antibody protection by two-thirds.
On the other hand, another vaccine Modrena’s capability to neutralize the South Africa variant has dropped sixfold.
But why these vaccines are unable to protect against different variants?
Let’s understand it in brief. These antibodies protect you by attaching to each spike protein on the base of coronavirus. In this way, vaccines prevent infection in body cells.
But if a variant is producing a virus in more amount and changing its shape then these vaccines may not be able to protect against the virus.
This is the reason, more and more people are getting infected with Covid-19. However, every country is exploring different clinical methods to produce a vaccine that could prove effective against virus variants and so is the U.S.
Besides, three vaccines have been authorized by the U.S. Food and drug administration for emergency uses.
Let’s discuss them in detail.
1. Pfizer- BioNTech
Pfizer- BioNTech is testing a third booster shot of the vaccine the company developed. It is an mRNA vaccine which been used in phase 1 and people are fully vaccinated. Moreover, the third dose of the vaccine would be given to people after 6-12 months when they would be fully vaccinated.
According to the chief scientist officer of Pfizer-NBiotech “He claimed that our vaccine is effective against various variants of coronavirus. And there is a reasonable possibility that people would get regular booster shots to sustain the virus. Or the company might change the strain every few years as per the need.”
Moreover, the CEO and co-founder of Pfizer-NBiotech has said in a release that “The flexibility of our proprietary m-RNA enables us to develop these booster shots within a week as per need.”
Apart from this, the company is also planning a clinical trial for “a variant-specific vaccine” that would be the reconstructed version of the original vaccine using the strain from South Africa.
And the company has also stated that they are taking these steps to ensure long-term protection against the different virus strains.
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Moderna is another company that has been testing using the third dose of its existing vaccine.
Moderna vaccine is using mRNA technologyto transport the genetic material into the cells with a guide to make a non-infectious piece of coronavirus’s spike protein.
In this way, this vaccine recognizes the copies of spike protein and creates antibodies against it.
Additionally, Moderna is also developing boosters shot by using the mRNA technology for the new South Africa variant. And the company CEO Bancel has said that “ it’s just a matter of copying and pasting the new mutation into the vaccine.”
And Dr. Kizzmekia who led the team developing the Moderna vaccine called this approach “plug and play”.
Furthermore, researchers have also stated that the Moderna vaccine has shown the efficacy of approximately 92% in protecting against Covid-19. But whether the vaccine would prevent infection and transmission, all these points are being studied.
3. Johnson & Johnson
Johnson & Johnson is another vaccine that has gained authorization from the U.S. Food and drug administration to prevent further infection of Covid-19.
The company has developed a single dose Covid -19 vaccine by using adenovirus, a virus that causes the common cold and works as a messenger to send instructions to the body cells. And it has shown around 72% efficacy in providing protection against the covid infection
Moreover, the MD and vice-chairmen of Johnson & Johnson have stated that “We believe this single-dose Covid-19 vaccine is a critical tool for fighting this global pandemic. And it helps in easing up the burden on people and healthcare professionals.
Besides, the company CEO Alex Gorky also said that “the company is in also working on developing software that could help in identifying emerging and the new strain of coronavirus.”
Among the above-mentioned vaccine, there is another vaccine that is expected to get FDA approval in May, And that vaccine is Novavax
Novavax is a “two-dose protein subunit vaccine” that contains harmless pieces of surface spike protein that directly trigger the immune system and provide protection against Coronavirus. Due to this specification scientists can add different strains to the existing vaccine as variants emerge.
Furthermore, the clinical data from the UK trials shows that vaccine was more than 89% effective in protecting against Covid and 85.6% effective against the U.K. variant. But Novavax was less than 56% effective on South Africa strain.
This is the reason, Novavx is working on a third booster to enhance the efficacy of the developed vaccine. And that’s not a very complex process as Novavax CEO Stanley Erck said that the “Covid vaccine can be easily tweaked just like a flu vaccine is tweaked each year to fit the prominent strains. Hence, we are going to use the original Wuhan and South Africa strain and tests it in humans probably second quarter of the year.”
Above all to scale up the vaccine manufacturing the researchers and professional requires clinical data regarding the different strains. With the presence of enough data and analytics, a vaccine could be developed with full efficacy to provide protection against Covid-19 in the future.