The government of the United Kingdom has ordered a further 90 million doses of two experimental covid19 vaccines, one being developed by the US biotech company Novavax and the other being developed by the Belgian pharmaceutical company named Janssen, owned by Johnson & Johnson. If all the vaccines that the UK has pre-ordered are successful and came into production then the country will have a huge vaccine supply of 340 million doses which will be enough to give each person in the country five doses but most of the vaccines require only two doses.
Janssen’s covid19 vaccine is undergoing its first human trials involving around 1,045 people over the age of 18 in Belgium and the US. The vaccine is named Ad26.COV2-S and works in a similar way to Oxford’s vaccine which is also under development. The ‘Ad’ part in the name of the vaccine means it’s making use of adenovirus, best known for initiating common cold, which takes the genetics of coronavirus into the body.
Novavax’s vaccine is called NVX-CoV2373 and has already passed through early trials. In the trials 131 adults aged between 18 and 59 took part and the vaccine was able to provoke an immune response in all the people who got it. The people involved in the trials were given two doses of the vaccine with a gap of three weeks each and after the second dose, the response from the immune system was stronger. According to the company, the immune response was four times stronger than the one that people who actually are coronavirus positive have.
As most of the vaccine trials are failing, the UK government is hedging its bets and hoping that at least one of the covid19 vaccines purchased by them will be proved safe and effective. Chair of the UK government Vaccine Taskforce Kate Bingham said that it is not known if any of these vaccines acquired will work as there are no licensed vaccines for coronavirus at the moment. She further believes that it was the government’s priority to ensure that there are enough vaccines for most vulnerable people.
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As part of the deal, the US-based drug companies will conduct the clinical trials of their covid19 vaccine in Britain. If the vaccines are proven successful then the members of the public in the UK could get them by the mid of next year. However, it is not clear how much these covid19 vaccines will cost the UK.
The race for a vaccine around the globe, which may be the only way to defeat the virus, has shown positive signs this week as results of early trials of some covid19 vaccines are revealed. Moreover, Russia this week approved its covid19 vaccine after trials on only three dozen people, 38 to be exact, and is provoking concerns that they don’t have enough proof about their vaccine being safe and they are rushing into experiments without data.
Apart from the deals with Janssen Pharmaceuticals and Novavax the UK government has made deals with Sanofi, AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline, Valneva, and Pfizer to get its hands on the covid19 vaccine. The UK health officials are using the approach of spread-betting, where they are ordering numerous types of Jabs hoping that at least one of them will be successful. The government has so far announced deals for nearly 340 million doses however, the population of the country is only 67 million.
It is unclear if people are given the best performing vaccine or a combination of different vaccines. Bingham added that what her team is doing is they have chosen six covid19 vaccines that have the best chance of being successful, they are hoping that one of those vaccines will work but it would be nice if all of them work which is unlikely. She believes that most of the vaccines will fail that’s why the government has ordered six different vaccines because if only one is proven to be safe and effective, they will have the rights to it.