“This morning, for the first time in the world, a vaccine against the new Coronavirus was registered”, declared the Russian President, Vladimir Poutine, Tuesday August 11, 2020. Called “Sputnik V”, this serum would have been developed by the Nikolai Gamaleia Institute, a Moscow-based state research center in epidemiology and microbiology.
On the United States side, Donald Trump’s government has invested heavily in six pharmaceutical companies. The most advanced projects in clinical trials are those of the British University of Oxford, allied to the AstraZeneca laboratory; from the American biotech Moderna, associated with the American institutes of health; the American Pfizer, in partnership with the German biotechnology company BioNTech; and the CanSino laboratory in China. It should be noted that Pfizer and Moderna have already started phase 3 clinical trials. The two laboratories had announced positive results for the limited trials they had carried out.
As it should be recalled that in July, the Indian Institute of Medical Sciences in Delhi announced that it had started recruiting volunteers to conduct clinical trials of Covaxin, the locally developed Covid-19 vaccine project.
Morocco, for its part, intends to participate with certain countries in multicenter clinical trials relating to Covid-19. It has the regulatory and legal arsenal allowing it to position itself to obtain the quantity of vaccines sufficient for citizens and on time, announced the Minister of Health, Mr. Ait Taleb.
The question which remains unanswered is that of knowing which vaccination protocol will be followed in Morocco: Russian, Chinese, Indian, European or American?
The empirical origins of vaccination
The history of vaccination takes us to the 18th century, more exactly in 1790, where the first examples of immunization against smallpox (or smallpox) were noticed, an infectious disease of viral origin, very contagious and epidemic. Empirical methods of variolation have emerged from the observation that a person who survives the disease is spared in subsequent epidemics. It should be noted that the smallpox virus was the cause of various clinical manifestations including fever, aches and abdominal pain, followed by a generalized rash made up of vesicles and then pustules. A formidable scourge, it killed one in five patients (among adults, nearly one in three patients). When she wasn’t killing, she often left a pockmarked face, scarred for life. It was not until 1980 that smallpox was eradicated by the WHO.
In the 1880s, the pioneer of microbiology, Louis Pasteur, had observed that certain bacteria responsible for cholera in chickens, cultured for several weeks or exposed to unfavorable conditions, changed and lost their virulence. Then comes the start of tests on this principle by injecting fragments of bacteria on the animal to realize that the latter was protected from a subsequent infection. This is how Pasteur discovered vaccination with attenuated pathogenic germs. He applied this principle to other animal diseases (anthrax in sheep, red mullet in pigs), then to rabies, applied in 1885.
Since then, the history of vaccination has been on the move. It was also the bacteriologist doctor Alexandre Yersin who took over in October 1894, seeking to create a vaccine to prevent plague and a serum to cure it. Due to the devastation it caused, especially in the Middle Ages, the plague had many impacts on the economy, religion and the arts.
Recent research estimates that the disease is transmitted just as much, if not more frequently without the intermediary of rats, which for a long time were the only ones blamed for the contagion.
Vaccine manufacturing, a complex process
The time estimated by researchers for the development of a vaccine against the new Coronavirus is eighteen months, at least that is the expected time. The health emergency meant that this period was greatly shortened. Indeed, it generally takes between ten and fifteen years to develop a vaccine.
Developing a high-quality vaccine is a complex process, which takes between 6 and 36 months for production, packaging and delivery to affected populations. This period includes the analysis of each batch of vaccine at each stage of its manufacture. Some quality controls are reiterated by different authorities around the world.
It is a biological process which requires a very high level of expertise, and which must continually respond to changing regulatory requirements and the most stringent safety standards, which vary from country to country.
Once approved by the health authorities and put into circulation, vaccines continue to be monitored in terms of safety through the pharmacovigilance system.
For example, the most rapidly developed vaccine, that against Ebola, required five years of effort. Between each of the stages in developing a vaccine, there is a pause. This allows scientists to meticulously analyze their results before moving on to the next phase.
But the current context has made the development completely different. The phases of clinical trials follow one another at an exceptional speed. Pharmaceutical companies are devoting all their efforts to Covid-19, when they usually look at several diseases in parallel. Factories are being prepared for industrial production of the billions of doses needed, although the type of vaccine that might work is still unknown.