The race is intensifying but having an effective and safe vaccine before the end of the year is far from guaranteed.
Force yourself into optimism. “We are assuming that we could have a few hundred million doses by the end of this year, Soumya Swaminathan, WHO Scientific Director, hoped in mid-June. We hope that in 2021, we will have two billion doses, one, two or three effective vaccines. “
Nearly 200 vaccine candidates, some 20 clinical trials (on humans) already underway, hundreds of millions of dollars injected and a fully mobilized global scientific community. Should we get there?
It is not yet won, at least according to the high standards currently set by WHO. “For this virus, the vaccine would have to be 75% effective in protecting the population and more than 90% effective in stopping the epidemic. A flu virus is only 50-60% effective, ” decrypts Frédéric Tangy, head of vaccine innovation laboratory of the Institut Pasteur. Ideally, WHO would like the vaccine to be sterilizing and effective within two weeks. “Less effective vaccines could protect against disease but not protect against infection. You may not be sick yourself, but be a healthy carrier. It is not impossible that WHO has to lower its standards “, if the first vaccines are not as effective as expected.
“Do it quickly, but without taking too many risks”
To make matters worse, the immunity conferred by the disease (and therefore by a possible vaccine) could be short, as with benign coronaviruses. “Covid-19 is not a mild virus at all. We need a vaccine. It must be done quickly, but without taking too many risks ”, insists the researcher, whose lab will test a first human vaccine candidate in July.
It usually takes about ten years to develop the vaccine. Accelerated procedures pose a risk, for lack of perspective. Especially since many vaccine candidates are based on concepts that have never resulted in reliable products for humans. Moderna Therapeutics vaccine or that developed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca (of which Europe has pre-empted 400 million doses), two of the most advanced projects, are in this case.
“The NIH (American Federal Health Agency) has a good approach, however, estimates Frédéric Tangy. She has committed to large trials of 100,000 people to compare five to six vaccines against each other. “
The Chinese military is taking fewer precautions. It has just authorized for one year a vaccine designed by the pharmaceutical firm CanSinoBio and a military institute. It is unclear whether vaccination of soldiers will be mandatory. In its press release published Monday, CanSinoBio underlines that it cannot guarantee that its vaccine will be marketed to the public.