The vaccine race is taking a new turn. The United States is working on a massive testing program of half a dozen experimental coronavirus vaccines in which more than 100,000 volunteers could participate, we have learned from researchers associated with this initiative.
The objective is to speed up research so that by the end of the year a safe and effective vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 is available. The potential vaccine developed by the US biotechnology laboratory Moderna will be the first to be tested under this program from July, Dr Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), told Reuters. It could be quickly followed by the one that the British University of Oxford and AstraZeneca are trying to develop. Moderna’s candidate vaccine is already in the clinical trials phase on human guinea pigs. Those of Johnson & Johnson, Sanofi and Merck are a month or two behind, said Dr. Collins.
A few months instead of ten years
The idea is to reduce to a period of only a few months a process which generally takes ten years, illustrating the urgency of the health crisis which has paralyzed whole swathes of the world economy. To achieve this, say these researchers, the laboratories have agreed to share their data and open their clinical trial networks to their competitors if their own “vaccine candidate” fails.
In order to get a faster response, these vaccines will also be tested among healthcare professionals and members of communities where the virus is still spreading to see if injections reduce the occurrence of new cases.