US biotech company Moderna said that a coronavirus vaccine is now ready for human clinical trials, reports CNN.
The biotech company said that they have already shipped the experimental coronavirus vaccine to the government researchers in the US, who will launch the first human clinical test of whether the shot can suppress the epidemic that originated in Wuhan, China. The potential vaccine has already been tested in mice and it is suggested that it can fight the virus. They consider it “immunogenic” in animal tests.
Vaccine vials of mRNA-1273 sent to US health officials
Moderna said that they have sent the vaccine vials from its manufacturing plant in Norwood, Massachusetts to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) in Bethesda, Maryland. The drugmaker has named their work mRNA-1273. A day after sending the vaccine vials to NIAID, the company’s shares grew 15% higher in New York.
The biotech firm went on to say that the first vaccine vials for COVID-19 will be used for Phase 1 study and it will involve testing it on a small number of healthy humans first. NIAID Director Anthony Fauci states that the test will begin by the end of April. “We are on time at least and maybe even a little bit better,” Fauci added. He hoped that there will be no “glitches” in the experiment. The National Institutes of Health has reportedly been working with Moderna to create the vaccine using a coronavirus strain.
The slow race to make COVID-19 vaccine
Although there is a high expectation to get the vaccine to the market, doctors’ expectations are low as to how quickly it could happen. Global health experts have also said via business news provider CNBC that developing, testing, as well as reviewing a potential vaccine is usually an expensive, complex, and long endeavor that could take months or sometimes years. Before the health researchers could begin the human trials, they need to have a solid understanding of the infectious agent called pathogen that produced the disease and run safety tests. Researchers also have to find enough numbers of human volunteers.
Fauci, however, said that researchers can accelerate the approval process for the COVID-19 vaccine if the Phase 1 clinical test will be successful as an attempt to stop the spread of the virus. CNN added that the coronavirus vaccine will be tested on 25 volunteers to know if it will produce an immune response in their body to protect them against the virus. Even if the country proceeds with the deployment of the vaccine at an “emergency speed” in case the Phase 1 test will be successful, it will still take at least 18 months or a year for the vaccine to be widely available.
Aside from Moderna, other drug companies are also studying immunization for the COVID-19. Pharmaceutical giants, such as GlaxoSmithKline (GLAXF) and Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) are also working on a coronavirus vaccine. Government scientists are also doing their part to make the vaccine.
An official from the World Health Organization stated that one of the drugs created by the biotechnology company Gilead has shown signs that it could treat the coronavirus. Their novel antiviral drug is called Remdesivir. WHO’s assistant director-general Bruce Aylward mentioned it in a press conference in Beijing. This news paved the way for the 5% increase in Gilead’s shares in the stock market.
Gilead then confirmed in an email to CNN that they are in collaboration with China’s health authorities on two tests for patients that have been infected with the coronavirus. One of the patients is suffering from severe disease while the other one from moderate disease. They expect the results of their trial in April, too.
COVID-19 cases worldwide
As of February 24, 2020, database company Statista shared that China has 77,262 confirmed cases of novel coronavirus cases. It is followed by the Republic of Korea (763), Japan (144), Italy (124), Singapore (89), Iran (43), United States (35), Thailand (35), Australia (22), Malaysia (22), Vietnam (16), Germany (16), United Arab Emirates (13), France (12), United Kingdom (9), Canada (9), Philippines (3), Russian Federation (2), Spain (2), Belgium (1), Finland (1), Israel (1), Cambodia (1), Kuwait (3), India (3), Nepal (1), Sri Lanka (1), Egypt (1), and Lebanon (1). The total number of confirmed cases reached 79,331.
In South Korea, the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 reached 977, including recovered and deaths. Twenty-two patients recovered and 10 died. Moreover, 13,880 tests are still in progress in the country. In the first quarter of 2020, South Korea is expected to experience a loss of nearly 2.9 trillion South Korean won in tourism revenue if the virus will rapidly spread in the country, added Statista.
According to the Korea Tourism Organization, there were 437,024 male and 730,728 female tourists form the East Asia and The Pacific that arrived in South Korea. International tourists from Japan (88,718 males, 167,326 females), Taiwan (30,560 males, 70,670 females), Hong Kong (17,997 males, 39,860 females), and Macau (1,330 males, 3,566 females) are also high in number. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of the US has just raised a travel directory for SoKor at the highest level after the confirmed COVID-19 cases reached nearly 800.
Why COVID-19 infections shot up in SoKor
According to a report published by The Washington Post, the CDC Level 3 warning signals that Americans should avoid nonessential visits to South Korea because it now has the highest concentration of COVID-19 infections outside China. At the heart of the sudden spike of coronavirus cases in South Korea is the “shadowy” Christian group Shincheonji Church. Members of their group reportedly infected one another after their service in Daegu. The church’s founder has agreed to give the names of their members if the health authorities will protect their identities.
South Korean Centre for Disease Control’s director Jung Eun-kyeong said via BBC that the possibility of people holding service and sitting close together in a confined space for more than one hour would have caused the spread of the virus.
The importance of medical research and public health preparedness is now emphasized more than ever. If the mRNA vaccines from the US biotech company are proven successful, it could mean new hope for the affected nations.