COVID-19 vaccine updates: WHO believes COVID-19 vaccine may be ready by year-end, even as Johnson & Johnson pauses trial over safety concerns

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  • Johnson & Johnson pauses late-stage COVID-19 trials following a participant’s illness.
  • Russia is all set to launch its COVID-19 vaccine, Sputnik V, domestically by late October or early November.
  • Pakistan hopes to acquire a COVID-19 vaccine within the next six months.

After registering over 38 million COVID-19 infections, the World Health Organisation is
finally expecting a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of 2020 or early 2021.

It takes a decade or two to design, test, and launch an effective vaccine that can protect billions of people from diseases. However, COVID-19 has forced researchers to fast-track the vaccine — making process.

“As you know, we have about 40 vaccine candidates now in some stages of clinical trials, and 10 of them are in the phase three trials, which are the late-stage clinical trials, which will tell us about both the efficacy and the safety. So, the best we could make a guess or predict, looking at when a trial started and when it is likely to have enough data to submit to the regulators, is [at] earliest from December of 2020 into the early part of 2021,” Soumya Swaminathan, WHO chief scientist told reporters.

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Here’s a look at COVID-19 vaccine updates from around the world —

Johnson & Johnson pauses late-stage COVID-19 trials following a participant’s illness

A late-stage study of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate has been paused while the company investigates whether a study participant’s unexplained illness is related to the shot.

In a statement on Monday evening, the company said that illnesses, accidents and other so-called adverse events are an expected part of any clinical study, especially large studies, but that its physicians and a safety monitoring panel would try to determine what might have caused the illness.

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The pause is at least the second such hold to occur among several vaccines that have reached large-scale final tests in the US. The company declined to reveal any more details about the illness, citing the participant’s privacy.

Russia’s COVID-19 vaccine to be widely domestically available by early November

Russia is all set to launch its COVID-19 vaccine, Sputnik V, domestically by late October or early November, according to the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF). Earlier in August, Russia claimed to be the first country to develop a coronavirus vaccine.

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“We believe that the vaccine can start being widely used in Russia by late October or early November,” Kirill Dmitriev, head, RDIF said.

It is further expecting to roll out the vaccine in the Middle-East after human trials by the end of November,
Russian news agency TASS reported.


Pakistan hopes to acquire a COVID-19 vaccine within the next 6 months


A Pakistani official from the Ministry of National Health Services has expressed hope that the country would acquire a vaccine against the novel coronavirus in the next six months. The official said on October 12 that Pakistan has also prepared antibodies against spike proteins,
Dawn reported.

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“At present, 15 vaccines were in phase-III trials globally out of which 11 target the spike protein,” he said.

UK to begin trials to test if anti-TB BCG vaccine works against COVID-19

Scientists in the United Kingdom will begin recruiting frontline healthcare workers to test if an old vaccine used to combat tuberculosis (TB), the Bacillus Calmette-Guerin, or BCG jab can be repurposed to help boost immunity against the novel coronavirus as well.

The University of Exeter in south-west England said on October 11 that it is leading the UK arm of the worldwide research called the BCG vaccination to reduce the impact of COVID-19 in healthcare workers (BRACE) trials.

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Participants will be given either the BCG vaccine, currently provided to more than 100 million babies worldwide each year, including in India, to protect against TB or a placebo injection.

In India, Bharat Biotech asked to submit complete phase 2 trial data of its COVID-19 vaccine before phase 3 trials

On October 10, Bharat Biotech — which earlier got permission to conduct phase-3 clinical trials of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate — has been asked to submit complete safety and immunogenicity data of the ongoing phase-2 trial, besides providing some clarifications, before proceeding for the next stage.

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The vaccine candidate, ‘Covaxin,’ is being indigenously developed by the Bharat Biotech in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).

According to officials, the Hyderabad-based vaccine maker applied to the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) on October 2, seeking its permission to conduct phase III randomised, double-blind placebo-controlled multicentre trial of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate.

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India’s human space flight mission may face slight delay as ISRO resumes launching rockets in November

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