If the year 2020 could be referred to using a single word, it would undoubtedly be ‘nightmare’. Don’t you think so too? Frankly speaking, all the fiasco surrounding that enigmatic microscopic pathogen called coronavirus has given rise to a sense of claustrophobia among all of us.
Uncertainties have become the “new normal” in all walks of life, alongside face masks and hand sanitizers. The devil, no matter how tiny it might be, has wrought havoc all over the world. The absence of a remedial or even a prophylactic measure has made things worse. It has indeed made it difficult for each one of us to breathe in peace.
What Is COVID-19?
In simple terms, COVID-19 is a communicable and highly infectious disease caused by the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV). The notorious pathogen has quite literally turned out to be the “You-Know-Who” of the world of reality.
Coronavirus, a member of the Orthocoronavirinae subfamily, is an enveloped, positive single-strand RNA virus. When viewed under a microscope, “crown-like” spikes resembling the corona surrounding the Sun can be spotted on the surface of the virus. The origin of coronavirus remains unclear to this date. But scientists and researchers suspect that bats might be the host organisms.
It has been a long year and everyone is looking forward to hearing good news on the progress of Covid-19 vaccinations about their clinical trials, production and distribution. Let’s look at the progress.
Progress Made By Countries: Vaccines & Its Availability
Russia became the foremost country in the world to develop a vaccine. When clinical trials were going on all over the world, Russia took the centre stage on the 11th of August 2020, with an astonishing announcement.
It was declared that scientists in Russia have developed a vaccine which can successfully immunize people against the infamous coronavirus. The vaccine was named Sputnik V. The vaccine is based on two adenovirus vectors and was developed by the Gamaleya National Center of Epidemiology and Microbiology in Moscow.
Allegedly, the vaccine was first administered to the daughter of the Russian president Vladimir Putin. However, such a startling revelation was a bolt from the blue. It gave rise to widespread concerns among experts all over the world since there was no information available regarding the stage trials of the vaccine.
The president had assured that his daughter showed no sign of complications after the vaccine was administered to her. But researchers have remained sceptical about the efficacy of the vaccine. Most of them feel that the general public might decide to avoid vaccination if Sputnik V proves to be ineffective.
Also, the pandemic might take a serious turn in the event of such a failure. In the opinion of Ashish Jha, the dean of the Brown University School of Public Health in the USA: “We have no idea whether this vaccine is safe or whether it works.”
Apart from Sputnik V, Russia approved of another vaccine known as EpiVacCorona. However, there is no concrete evidence which can bear testimony to its efficacy.
The United Kingdom (UK)
In the UK, the vaccine developed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca has entered the final stage of a clinical trial. Research has shown that it can prove to be highly effective, offering about 70% to 90% protection to immunized individuals. This vaccine is a viral vector vaccine and is based on a chimpanzee adenovirus.
However, a trial of this vaccine was conducted in Brazil and reports claim that the efficacy of the same proved to be no more than 62%. This revelation was baffling.
It took 10 months to develop this vaccine. The trials came to a halt back in September when a volunteer developed complications. Following an investigation, the trials began once again in the UK and a few other countries such as Brazil, South Africa and India.
After successive trials, it was found that those who got themselves vaccinated did not develop a severe form of COVID. There was no need for them to be hospitalized either. Even in the case of elderly individuals, the vaccine elicited a strong immune response.
Oxford and AstraZeneca wish to prepare about 3 billion doses of their vaccine in the following year.
The United States Of America (USA)
The vaccine developed as a result of the joint efforts of the New York based company Pfizer and BioNTech based in Germany made a breakthrough. As per reports, their vaccine proved to be 95% effective against the novel coronavirus. This vaccine is based on mRNA. As many as 43000 people who volunteered to participate in the trials, developed no complications.
Clinical trials for this vaccine date back to May which culminated in success very recently. It became the first COVID-19 vaccine to have passed all the three phases of clinical trials and also in terms of its reception by a government.
On the 2nd of December this year, the UK approved of the widespread use of the vaccine. The doses will soon make an entry into the market. But the vaccine can be administered to those above the age of 16 and to those who are more likely to contract the infection. The first doses of the vaccine will also be delivered to Canada in December, as per the announcement made by the Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau.
Also, Pfizer has arranged for a vaccine delivery pilot program in association with the states of Rhode Island, Texas, Tennessee and New Mexico. The company aims to produce about 50 million doses in 2020 and 1.3 billion doses by the end of the following year, i.e. 2021.
It is worth noticing in this regard that an RNA vaccine has never been administered to human beings as of now.
In addition to the vaccine prepared by Pfizer and BioNTech, Moderna has also come up with another mRNA vaccine. As per the available data, the vaccine has turned out to be 94.1% effective in terms of prevention of mild forms of COVID-19 infection. Moderna claims that the FDA intends to review its application for approval on the 17th of December. Shipment of the doses will commence following the approval. Reports suggest that the company intends to prepare 20 million doses of the vaccine by the end of 2020.
India is not far behind in terms of developing prophylactic measures about coronavirus. The Indian company Zydus Cadila began experimenting in July. The phase 3 trial for this vaccine is scheduled to begin in December.
In addition to the above, Bharat Biotech developed a vaccine in association with the Indian Council of Medical Research and the National Institute of Virology. This vaccine was named Covaxin. In September, it was revealed that an administration of the vaccine to monkeys led to the production of antibodies. In October, Sai Prasad, the Executive Director of Bharat Biotech claimed that 90% of individuals who volunteered for the trials had developed antibodies. The company declared on 23rd October that their proposition to begin phase
three trials have been met with approval.
If reports are to be believed, Bharat Biotech has recently sought authorization of the Drugs Controller General of India (DGCI) for Covaxin on an emergency basis.
Some other contenders in terms of the development of COVID-19 vaccine include Canada and China.
In Canada, a plant-based vaccine is being developed in Quebec City by Medicago. The vaccine allegedly made use of a species of tobacco in preparing the vaccine. Reports claim that Medicago launched the first phase of clinical trials in July.
In China, companies such as Sinovac, Sinopharm and CanSino Biologics have been working towards developing vaccines. CoronaVac is the vaccine which is being developed by Sinovac. It entered the phase three trial in July. As per latest reports, the vaccine developed by Sinopharm entered the phase three trial in July and was administered to about 15000 volunteers in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
The following table provides a summary of all the developments taking place around the world in connection to the development of COVID-19 vaccines:
History of Covid-19
Where Did COVID-19 Originate?
It all started towards the end of December in the year 2019. Quite a few people living around the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in the Wuhan region of China began complaining of a mysterious disease affecting the lungs and the respiratory tract.
On the surface level, the disease appeared to be an unusual case of pneumonia, its symptoms being fever, dry cough, fatigue and in some cases gastrointestinal troubles, to name a few. However, things began to take a serious turn and the market was shut down on
1st January 2020.
Soon, the shadow of the mysterious disease fell on innumerable people inhabiting the Chinese provinces of Hubei, Zhejiang, Guangdong, Henan and Beijing to name a few. With time, the disease spread to several other countries and eventually across the continents, thereby resulting in the outbreak of a global pandemic.
Countless people living in countries such as Thailand, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Germany, Italy, Spain, the USA, the UK and even India have had to bear the brunt of COVID-19.
What Are The Theories Regarding The Origin Of COVID-19?
In all probability, you may already be aware of all the theories surrounding the obscure origins of the dreaded coronavirus. Newspapers, news channels and social media were rife with rumours and exaggerated speculations about the elusive virus during the initial stages of the global pandemic. To quote Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director-General of the WHO:
“Fake news spreads faster and more easily than this virus, and is just as dangerous.”
You must have heard people claiming that the virus was manufactured in a laboratory or that the pandemic is “man-made”, haven’t you? The minuscule pathogen, unseen to the eye, has succeeded in stirring up a hornet’s nest ever since it originated.
For a long time, people have been harbouring the notion that coronavirus is a bioweapon. It was believed that it was manufactured and unleashed as part of some game plan to assert political or economic superiority. Towards the beginning of 2020, some people even
dismissed the news surrounding the virus as nothing but a hoax.
Who Has Been Affected By COVID-19?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), at present, more than 61.8 million people all over the world have been affected by the deadly virus. Also, it has taken a massive toll on a global scale, since as many as 1.4 million people have lost their lives.
What Are The Effects Of COVID-19?
Ever since its emergence, coronavirus has proved to be a menace to people all over the world. It has brought about widespread socio-economic changes all over the world and has resulted in a large-scale upheaval.
The virus has not only claimed millions of lives but has also adversely affected the global economy. It has affected every person, irrespective of their financial condition. Simply put, it has affected the haves and have-nots alike.
Owing to the rapid transmission of the virus since the beginning of 2020, nations all over the world had to enforce lockdowns. Consequently, we all were put under house arrest which began affecting our physical and even our mental well-being. Masks and sanitizers have now become our new companions, alongside widespread uncertainties about education, tourism, healthcare facilities, economic development and so on.
When Will A Vaccine Be Available?
The world is eagerly waiting for this severe crisis to end. Researchers all over the globe are on the lookout for a remedy. This desperate search for a remedy has developed into a mad scramble among nations in terms of the development of a vaccine.
All the behemoths including the likes of Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca are striving to come up with an effective prophylactic measure.
As many as 7 candidates in terms of vaccine development are being supported by the US Operation Warp Speed programme(OWS), which is currently aiming to deliver 300 million vaccine doses by January 2021. Besides, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) is funding about 8 potential vaccine developers.
These developers have made their way into the portfolio of COVAX. COVAX is a collaboration between CEPI, Gavi and the WHO. The collaboration intends to deliver 2 billion doses of vaccine by the end of 2021.
Who got the first Covid-19 vaccine?
A UK grandmother Margaret Keenan, who turns 91 next week, has become the first person in the world to be given the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine as part of a mass vaccination programme.
She said the injection she received at 06:31 GMT On 8th December 2020 was the “best early birthday present”. It was the first of 800,000 doses of the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine that will be dispensed in the coming weeks.
A 81 year old UK man William Shakespeare, is the first man to receive Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine outside clinical trials.
Two doses of Pfizer vaccine required for full immunity.
The major candidates in terms of the COVID-19 vaccine development have indeed made rapid progress. Several vaccines have entered the phase three trials. The vaccines developed by Pfizer, AstraZeneca and a few other companies will soon be available in some
countries. The whole world awaits the arrival of these vaccines with bated breath, with a hope to succeed against the deadly coronavirus.
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