Many countries around the world have been working on developing new medical treatments and vaccines to prevent further spread of the virus. Due to the widespread effect of the pandemic, including its devastating effects on the global economy, tensions among the powerful nations continue to rise. Commentators have likened the race for the production of the COVID-19 vaccine to a "biotech arms race."
The case of President Trump and CureVac
In March, President Donald J. Trump was accused of attempting to poach a key player in the vaccine race from Germany called CureVac. The plan was to claim it as a “U.S. Vaccine,” but the German government stepped in.
Allegations started when CureVac’s CEO Daniel Menichella met up with President Trump in March. After the meeting, the CEO abruptly left the company, leaving it with a lot of unanswered questions as no reason was given.
Shortly after his abrupt resignation, more details have emerged that President Trump offered funds to entice CureVac to move its COVID-19 R&D work to the U.S. but the German government intervened by making counter offers to make it stay. This was seen as an attempt by the U.S. administration to gain access to a potential vaccine that was considered as one of the front-runners in the vaccine race at that time.
U.S. Officials have denied these allegations, saying that their efforts are focused on the development of a COVID-19 vaccine that aims to reach and help people, not just within the U.S., but people and patients around the world.
The Countries leading the vaccine development
Last August 13, Russia granted approval for a COVID-19 vaccine, the world’s first approved vaccine, after almost two months of human testing. They named the vaccine “Sputnik V,” a homage to the first satellite launched by the Soviet Union. Amid skepticism about its effectiveness, President Vladimir Putin announced that the vaccine has shown “stable immunity” against the virus and it had passed all necessary checks
All eyes are on the other front-runners in the coronavirus vaccine race for the approval of the next vaccine. The other front-runners include the United Kingdom, the United States, and China. While a lot of vaccine candidates from more than a dozen of countries are undergoing clinical trials, these three leading countries have already entered Phase II and Phase III, which are only a few steps before reaching regulatory approval.
In the United Kingdom, the University of Oxford started its human trials in April, which showed a positive immune response in patients and people who took part in the trial. Now that they have reached the final stage of clinical trials, Phase III, they are set to begin their large-scale trials in the United States in August. This vaccine, which is manufactured by AstraZeneca, is most likely the world’s leading candidate according to WHO’s chief scientists.
The key player in the United States as of the moment is a vaccine developed by Moderna Inc. Its first human trial began in March in Seattle, where they saw promising results. This month, Moderna started its large-scale testing involving 30,000 participants.
China’s leading vaccine candidate, CanSino Biologics, started human trials in March. The vaccine has already been approved in June but for limited use by the Chinese military. In the latest report about its efficacy, human trials are resulting to a positive immune response in the majority of patients
Increasing pressure to develop an effective vaccine
The pressure to develop an effective COVID-19 vaccine continues to rise as death tolls and the number of cases also increase. Countries are trying to speed up development as much as possible, but this is also causing people to worry. Under normal circumstances, vaccine development usually takes, on average, around 8-15 years to get from the laboratory to health care providers.
The only thing people can do is to remain hopeful that trials will continue to show positive results with zero to minimal side-effects so we can start going back to normal, or in this case, the “new normal.”
UPDATE AS OF 13 AUGUST 2020:
Russia just granted approval for a COVID-19 vaccine, the world’s first approved vaccine, after almost two months of human testing. They have named it “Sputnik V,” a homage to the first satellite launched by the Soviet Union. Amid scepticism about its effectiveness, President Vladimir Putin announced that the vaccine continues to show “stable immunity” against the virus and it had passed all necessary checks.
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Adams, B. (2020, Mar 16). Trump tries to lure CureVac to make a 'U.S. vaccine,' but German government steps in. Fierce Biotech. https://www.fiercebiotech.com/biotech/president-trump-tries-to-lure-curevac-to-make-a-u-s-vaccine-but-german-government-steps
Felter, C. (2020, Jul 23). What Is the World Doing to Create a COVID-19 Vaccine?. Council on Foreign Relations. https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/what-world-doing-create-covid-19-vaccine
Rapoze, K. (2020, Jul 21). China Coronavirus Vaccine By CanSino Seems To Be Working. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/kenrapoza/2020/07/21/china-coronavirus-vaccine-by-cansino-seems-to-be-working/#2260e6bd5161