Covid-19 vaccine update: Bharat Biotech begins phase 3 trials, Moderna says its candidate nearly 95% effective

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A worldwide search for a vaccine to treat the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) continues, even as the number of cases globally, due to the pandemic, currently stands at more than 55 million including more than 1.3 million people who have succumbed to the virus, as per a tally maintained by worldometers.

India’s Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech International Limited has started phase 3 trials of its vaccine candidate. America’s Moderna, meanwhile, claimed its vaccine candidate has been found to be 94.5% effective.

Here are the latest updates on the coronavirus vaccine development front:

(1.) Bharat Biotech on Monday started phase 3 clinical trials of its vaccine candidate, COVAXIN. Phase 3 trials will involve 26,000 volunteers and will be conducted in partnership with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). This is the largest clinical trial for a Covid-19 vaccine candidate in India as well as the country’s first phase 3 efficacy study of a vaccine candidate. Bharat Biotech is developing COVAXIN in collaboration with ICMR and National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune.

(2.) Also on Monday, US biotech firm Moderna released early results from a clinical trial of its Covid-19 vaccine candidate, mRNA-1273. The vaccine candidate, Moderna said, was found to be 94.5% effective. However, in what could be a potential hurdle for India, mRNA candidates need extremely cold environment for storage and transport. Last week, after Pfizer announced its candidate was 90% effective, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) director, Dr Randeep Guleria had said, “Pfizer vaccine has to be kept at minus 70 degrees Celsius which is a challenge for developing countries like India.”

3.) Johnson and Johnson, another US biotech firm working on a potential Covid-19 vaccine, has launched a second global phase 3 vaccine trial, besides an existing one. This latest trial has been named ENSEMBLE 2 and differs from other trials, including J&J’s own existing trial, in that it will explore a 2-dose regimen; most other trials are based on a 1-dose regimen. ENSEMBLE 2 will enrol up to 30,000 participants in the US, the UK, France, Germany, South Africa, Spain, Belgium, Colombia and the Philippines.

(4.) India is reportedly in talks with various firms over their potential vaccine candidates. Government officials are said to be in talks with firms like Moderna, Pfizer, Serum Institute of India (SII), Bharat Biotech and Zydus Cadila over the progress of the trials of their respective vaccine candidates, vaccine efficacy, safety, regulatory approvals etc.

(With agency inputs)

 

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