Ahead of the game
The five possible vaccines have already been tested on more than 2,000 people in phase II trials with no serious side effects reported, announced Zeng Yixin, vice-minister of the National Health Commission, at a press briefing on Friday in Beijing. Human trials must go through three phases before being approved for general use.
A roadblock ahead
China has impressively managed to curb its coronavirus epidemic which may result in a roadblock in testing the vaccines for phase III. Earlier phases, see experimental vaccines given to healthy individuals to test whether they’re safe.
However, phase III consists of a control group of individuals who are unvaccinated compared to subjects who have received the vaccine. The experts then determine whether the vaccine actually has an effect.
This obviously requires an environment where the virus is still rampant. With so little new cases now in China, some drug makers are considering running their phase III trials in other countries.
Whatever they decide to do, time is of the essence as a working vaccine is crucial for countries to restart their struggling economies without a surge in cases. Unfortunately, vaccines typically take years to develop.
So far, however, Chinese companies have more vaccines in development than any other country. This is partially because they are backed by state resources including the military.
In western nations, American drugmaker Moderna Inc. and researchers from Oxford University are the furthest along but still cannot compete with Chinese efforts.
COVID-19 has affected over 4.4 million people worldwide and killed over 300,000.
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