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COVID-19 vaccine race

President Duterte did not say which China pharmaceutical company could deliver him the vaccine he wishes for.

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We are at this point when we are banking on science to beat the new coronavirus, which has caused a pandemic formerly unseen by living generations.

Prayers help strengthen faith and resolve, but they could not stop COVID-19 alone. No miracle would wipe out the pandemic. Only science can.

President Rodrigo Duterte made a point when he admitted that we could only wait for the development of a vaccine against the new coronavirus to be developed before we could return to normality.

No leader of any other country would say he was wrong. All of them are also banking their hopes on a potent dose.

The question asked from them, however, is where would they source theirs.

Duterte was curt in his reply that he is looking at China to become the country’s savior from this pandemic. He could not be wrong.

This pandemic is also being used by the world’s most powerful countries to one-up their rivals. But when international cooperation is needed to give humans hope, rivalries are tangling the
anti-coronavirus efforts.

The United States has even accused China of stealing the COVID-19 vaccine research.

The US Department of Justice had charged two Chinese hackers of stealing information, completing the backdrop of cyber espionage, which rival countries accuse each other of.

There are also charges that Russian hackers have tried to steal vaccine data from the British, Canadian and American researchers as the US attempts to come up with a vaccine ahead of the other countries.

These moves come from the oldest book on capitalism as the rest of the world races to meet the deadline on saving lives while COVID-19 could still be controlled, but at the cost of business and the world economy.

There are more than 150 coronavirus vaccines that are in development across the world. These are efforts that assure that we could still cling our hopes and lives on our scientists. But they need to bring one to market in record time to ease the global crisis.

There is no doubt the US is leading the efforts to make that possible, with $10 billion infused for the “Operation Warp Speed” initiative, which targets a vaccine by January 2021.

The World Health Organization is also coordinating global efforts to develop a vaccine. It needs to have two billion doses by the end of next year.

It typically takes 10 to 15 years to develop and bring a vaccine to market. On record, the fastest development was for the vaccine for mumps, which took only four years in the 1960s.

The COVID vaccine will still need to go through a multistage clinical trial process. Safety is checked, whether it would trigger an immune response in a small group of healthy humans.

Then the testing pool is widened to include groups of people who may have the disease or be more likely to catch it. Then, the pool is expanded to thousands to make sure the vaccine is safe and effective among a wider array of people.

Regulatory agencies will give their approval before use. It’s a lengthy process, and we are all waiting.

Manufacturing and distribution, choosing what populations should get it first, determining its cost per country, and a perpetual stage of regular study do not make its availability that easy.

President Duterte did not say which China pharmaceutical company could deliver him the vaccine he wishes for. But there are three China companies, which are among the leading developers of the COVID-19 vaccine.

CanSino Biologics (Ad5-nCoV) has conducted phase two trials, published in The Lancet. It became the first company to receive limited approval to use its vaccine in people, but its recipients are limited only to members of the Chinese military and for a period of just one year.

Then, there is Sinovac (CoronaVac), which is in partnership with the Brazilian research group Butantan. It has received a candidate approval to move ahead to phase three from Brazil’s regulatory agency with the support from 9,000 health care professionals in the country.

Also, there is Sinopharm — China’s state-run pharmaceutical company, which is also in phase three trial among 15,000 volunteers, aged 18 to 60, with no serious underlying conditions — in the United Arab Emirates.

Other leading pharma companies in advanced stages of the vaccine development are Moderna Therapeutics (mRNA-1273) from Massachusetts; Pfizer (BNT162b2), a New York-based company collaborating with German biotech company BioNTech; the University of Oxford (ChAdOx1

nCoV-19) in partnership with AstraZeneca; and the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (Bacillus Calmette-Guerin BRACE trial).

The route is long yet time is short for them.

There is no time to wrangle.

Saving lives is more important than profit and bragging rights.

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