Corona virus cases now exceed more than 1,71,112 worldwide and every day the numbers of reported patients are increasing. There are currently no proven antiviral drugs or vaccines for the latest outbreak (COVID-19) which has killed at least 6,526 people around the world till date. The World Health Organization has declared the worldwide outbreak of the COVID-19 a pandemic, which has led to catalyse the efforts of developing novel coronavirus vaccines across the biotech industry, both by pharmaceutical companies and research organisations.
Coronavirus vaccines are in various stages of development and scientists are working around the clock to find a solution. Different approaches, such as, development of whole virus vaccine, recombinant protein subunit vaccine, antibody vaccine and nucleic acid vaccines are among them. And some are trying new routes to administer vaccines such as intranasal coronavirus vaccine and an oral recombinant vaccine in tablet formulations.
There are many hurdles while making a vaccine for COVID-19. Age specific vaccines are much needed in this scenario due to high mortality among elderly and they have a different immune system compared to healthy middle-aged adults and often do not respond as vigorously to immunization , hence one-size vaccine does not fit all. Moreover, it usually takes about 10 to 15 years to develop a vaccine.
There are 3 main steps in bringing a vaccine to market which consist of rigorous clinical trials. Phase 1 involves just a few dozen healthy volunteers, to evaluate the vaccine safety, if the healthy volunteers don’t suffer any adverse effects, it goes Phase 2. This includes several hundred people, in this case in an area where COVID-19, outbreak is present which helps to gather data to see if there’s any antibody dependent enhancement and fends off the disease for these trial subjects and then it goes to final phase, Phase 3 to perform the trial in few thousand people in an outbreak zone and repeat the experiment. Then last but not least is getting approval from regulating bodies.
Regardless, some researchers are trying to rapidly sequence virus genomes to create vaccines out of messenger RNA, and speeding up the process of development. Creating new antiviral drugs can also take time. But with advancement of technology new types of antiviral drugs and immunotherapy treatments, can treat a wide range of diseases, hence, drugs already in the development pipeline or already treating diseases in patients can be used against COVID-19. In China Shenzhen, Guangdong province, a clinical trial is underway involving 70 patients using the antiviral drug Favilavir. This drug has reportedly shown efficacy in treating the disease with minimal side effects.
As we all know prevention is always better than cure. Governments around the world have taken public health measures to limit the spread of infection with isolation of people infected with COVID-19, social isolation, such as closing schools, and businesses, encouraging people to work from home and cancelling large gatherings. Despite government efforts it’s important to understand the gravity of the situation and willingly participate in quarantine if needed. In some places people behave violently in quarantine facilities and not cooperating, putting everyone at risk. Let’s be responsible and win the battle against COVID-19.
Dr. Nadeera Nilupamali
co-founder and Vice President (Product)