The coronavirus pandemic has decimated the global economy, killed close to 100 million people, and installed a so-called new normal in societies worldwide. Put simply, COVID-19 has changed our lives in diverse ways. After a year since the first case was confirmed in China, the planet has been scrambling to come up with a vaccine. The scientific community defied expectations and made preventative tools in less than a year. What are they, and who made them? Let’s explore the current coronavirus vaccines on the market.
Name: Comirnaty (BNT162b2)
Vaccine Type: mRNA-based vaccine
In November, Pfizer generated international headlines when it announced that it had manufactured a coronavirus vaccine that is more than 90% effective in preventing contracting COVID-19. Since then, the two-dose vaccine has been given emergency use authorization by several governments, including the United States, Canada, Great Britain, Switzerland, and the European Union. Officials have ordered tens of millions of Pfizer vaccine doses.
The Pfizer inoculation has already been administered to those on a high-priority list, including frontline workers and seniors. But there has been some controversy surrounding some of the side effects, such as facial paralysis, and there are concerns over reports that a dozen people died in Norway after receiving the vaccine.
For now, countries are still moving ahead with the vaccine.
Name: Moderna COVID‑19 Vaccine (mRNA-1273)
Vaccine Type: mRNA-based vaccine
A few days after Pfizer made its announcement, Moderna confirmed that it had developed a COVID-19 vaccine with an efficacy rate of 94.5%. It is comparable to the Pfizer version in terms of both effectiveness and structure. But the critical difference is that the Moderna vaccine does not need to be stored in super-cold temperatures.
In December, several governments issued emergency approvals for the two-dose vaccine, like the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Israel, and France. The clinical trials revealed mild side effects, including fever, fatigue, and headaches.
Johnson & Johnson
Vaccine Type: Ad26.COV2.S
Health experts have called Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine candidate “promising.” The medical and pharmaceutical titan is creating the coronavirus vaccine in the U.S., Europe, India, and South Africa. It has yet to receive emergency authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and Johnson & Johnson has endured manufacturing delays. The inoculation has shown an efficacy rate of at least 80% and it does not need to be placed in freezers. Still, the company projects that it will produce one billion doses by the end of 2021.
AstraZeneca (United Kingdom)
Name: COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca (AZD1222)
Vaccine Type: Adenovirus vaccine
On January 4, Brian Pinker became the first person to receive the Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine in the United Kingdom. The British government is optimistic about the vaccine, giving it emergency approval in December and ordering 100 million doses of the vaccine that is 70% effective.
Although it has a lower effective rate, study participants did not become seriously ill and none were hospitalized during trial phases. It also has the advantage of only having to be stored in a normal refrigerator rather than in storage with extremely cold temperatures.
Gamaleya Research Institute, Acellena Contract Drug Research and Development (Russia)
Name: Sputnik V
Vaccine Type: Non-replicating viral vector
When Russia announced the world’s first coronavirus vaccine, international health experts were immediately skeptical. The concerns were heightened when Moscow approved the Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine after early trials. Despite its authorization, Sputnik V, which was developed by Gamaleya Research Institute and Acellena Contract Drug Research and Development, has continued to go through tests and phases.
As of January 2021, Russia has exported its vaccine to a handful of countries, including Argentina, Bolivia, Palestine, Serbia, and Venezuela. It also plans to submit the vaccine for approval from the European Union. Meanwhile, Moscow plans to roll out its mass vaccinations domestically before the end of the month.
Vaccine Type: Inactivated vaccine (formalin with alum adjuvant)
After being ground zero of the coronavirus pandemic, China produced one of the first vaccines. Unfortunately for Beijing, its Sinovac coronavirus vaccine has been a failure, with late-stage trials highlighting an efficacy rate of 50.38% in Brazil and 65.3% in Indonesia.
The biotech firm took a different approach than its Western counterparts. Instead of relying on mRNA – a part of the virus’ genetic code that is injected into the body – China chose an inactive vaccine that works by killing viral particles to expose the body’s immune system to the virus without triggering a disease response.
Many details regarding the vaccine are still unknown because the information from the first and second phases, which involved 144 and 600 participants, respectively, wasn’t published.
Bharat Biotech, ICMR (India)
Vaccine Type: Inactivated vaccine
Covaxin, developed between Indian biotechnology company Bharat Biotech and clinical research body Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), is an inactivated vaccine with an average efficacy rate of 60% to 70%. India’s government gave it emergency use authorization in early January.
Although the vaccine is still in the third phase of trials, the central government has launched the world’s largest COVID-19 vaccination campaign. This may have been out of desperation due to the explosion of cases in India and concerns over the new coronavirus variants.
The vaccine is not mandatory, and the government has launched a compensation program for individuals who have suffered adverse effects. Vaccine recipients will be given medical care in authorized hospitals if they suffer serious side effects from the product.
A Race Against Time
With the discoveries of several new variants of the coronavirus, governments worldwide are in a race against time. Health experts are worried that the first-generation coronavirus vaccines may eventually diminish their power against new strains, exacerbating the pandemic. So far, however, medical officials say that the latest mutations have yet to bypass the leading COVID-19 vaccinations.