Two coronavirus vaccine candidates recently demonstrated their high effectiveness against Covid-19. That bodes well for other programs led by AstraZeneca, Novavax and Johnson & Johnson, Bill Gates said Tuesday.
The billionaire Microsoft founder and philanthropist said it would increase production and make the vaccine easier to distribute around the world, especially in developing countries.
In the past few days, the vaccine industry has heard a lot of good news that has been marked by overwhelming success in clinical trials from both Biontech / Pfizer and Moderna. Compared to a placebo, both vaccines showed strong protection against the virus in the studies.
Speaking at the New York Times DealBook online summit Tuesday, Gates said it was likely that other vaccine programs would see similar successes.
“Given the very good news from Pfizer and Moderna, we think it likely that AstraZeneca, Novavax and Johnson & Johnson will also be very effective,” Gates told journalist Andrew Ross Sorkin.
All leading vaccines target the same part of the coronavirus
Although Gates did not elaborate on the scientific justification of this prediction, many scientists harbor the same hope. This can be explained by the fact that all leading vaccine candidates are targeting the same part of the coronavirus: the spike protein. The coronavirus needs this to bind to the surface of human cells and to infect them.
Early clinical studies found that all of these vaccines elicited varying levels of neutralizing antibodies. This refers to virus-fighting proteins that play a decisive role in the body’s immune response.
It is only through late-stage clinical studies with tens of thousands of volunteer participants who receive either the active ingredient or a placebo that it becomes clear whether the respective vaccine actually offers protection.
After the scientific success, the biggest challenges in connection with a Covid-19 vaccine are now in the area of production and distribution. According to Gates, there will be delivery bottlenecks worldwide in 2021. Therefore, the additional vaccines would be particularly valuable in this regard.
Other vaccines could be more easily manufactured, distributed and stored
AstraZeneca, Novavax and J&J vaccine production “could be scaled up at low cost and also do not have the same temperature requirements,” said Gates. He later added, “These three vaccines could potentially be part of a solution to the supply problem.”
AstraZeneca announced that they expect meaningful results before the end of the year. Novavax and J&J, on the other hand, expect corresponding data by early 2021.
Both Moderna’s and Pfizer’s vaccines were developed using a new vaccine technology called mRNA technology. Both must be stored refrigerated.
While Moderna’s vaccine can be stored for a month at typical refrigerator temperatures, Pfizer’s vaccine must be stored at minus 70 degrees Celsius. That requires dry ice and special containers. This logistical effort could prove to be an obstacle to vaccine access in poorer areas of the world.
This article was translated from English and edited by Ilona Tomić. You can read the original here.