Coronavirus vaccine: Latest updates and when we can expect the COVID-19 vaccine

The latest updates on the long-gestating coronavirus vaccine. How long until it's available?

Coronavirus vaccine in progress
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At long last, things are looking up for a coronavirus vaccine! Recent news shows that a vaccine from Oxford University and AstraZeneca has reached 90% success rate, and other vaccines from American companies Pfizer and Moderna are almost ready to ship. In some countries, the vaccine could be available in a matter of weeks

Attempts to rebuff the virus' advances have proven difficult so far, with attempt after attempt to produce widely-available commercial tests falling flat. Some countries are battening down the hatches as the cases creep up again and the "second wave" of cases hits the world. Only a vaccine can really bring us back from the brink. 

But there's lots of questions around the vaccine. How does it work? Is it 100% effective? When will it be commercially available? We've compiled all the available information below. This page will be continually updated with new info, so keep checking back for more on the vaccine as it happens 

Tests

Coronavirus tests, whether for antibodies or active pathogens, are currently our best defence

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Coronavirus vaccine: How was it developed?

One vaccine was a joint venture between scientists at Oxford University and pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca. The vaccine, known as ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, is said to be engineered from a virus which causes the common cold in chimpanzees. 

The BBC reports the virus works in the same way as coronavirus by using a "spike protein" to enter cells in the body. If the body can learn how to stave off the vaccine, it should also prove resistant to coronavirus.

After a brief pause, the Oxford University trials resumed, although the US Food and Drug Administration is said to be "concerned" about potential side-effects after a patient reportedly received a "severe" inflammation of the spinal cord.

The UK was the first to run real large-scale human challenges, as the government puts over £33m behind the groundbreaking study. According to the BBC, researchers first used controlled doses of the pandemic virus to discover what causes COVID infection in volunteers aged 18-30.

American pharmaceutical giants Pfizer and Moderna have also developed their own vaccines, which are said to be ready to ship around the world. 

Coronavirus

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Coronavirus vaccine: What stage is it at now? 

Trials of all three vaccines have been completed, showing the vaccine is safe and that it triggers an immune response, which is a very positive step. An immune response means the body is responding to the vaccine by perceiving it as an attack, which is exactly the response scientists were hoping for. The Oxford/Astrazeneca vaccine has found a 90% success rate.

The Moderna vaccine (mRNA-1273) was tested in three successively large cohorts of people in several different age cohorts. It met its goal in "Phase three" of its study, with a vaccine efficacy of 94.5%. The EU has secured 160 million doses of Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine, according to Reuters.

Likewise, Pfizer has announced its vaccine has reached 95% efficacy andthe safety milestone required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) has been achieved. The first 6.4 million doses of Pfizer's vaccine could be shipped as early as mid-December.

Other large-scale trials are being conducted in Brazil and South Africa, designed to cover the bases of all different ages, genders and ethnicity to ensure the vaccine works for all. Most recently, one vaccine study in the US by another pharmaceutical firm, Moderna, is now on the way. Around 30,000 volunteers will be receiving shots of the experimental dose.

Russia is also playing its part, with Moscow's Gamaleya Institute readying a vaccine for large-scale use after less than two months of testing. How valid these reports are remains to be seen, as some official statements from Russia to the international community have been debunked in recent years. 

However, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has reportedly allowed his daughter to be one of the first to take the vaccine. On November 2, The Guardian reported Argentina is expecting 10 million doses of Russia's new vaccine to be delivered.

Elsewhere, the Chinese government is already treating key workers with an experimental Sars-Cov-2 vaccine, in one of the first moves to do so outside clinical trails.

Coronavirus vaccine

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Coronavirus vaccine: Who's first in line?

Distribution will differ vastly across different countries and states, but allocations are expected to be prioritised for the at-risk categories: the elderly, the immunocompromised and key workers like doctors and nurses on the front lines. 

If you're young and fit, you could be waiting a lot longer for a shot, even when it does become more widely available, according to a report by City AM.

Speaking to a virtual conference on 21 July, the UK Government's deputy chief medical officer, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, said: 

"We may end up in the first instance with a vaccine that is most appropriately targeted and which has a label that restricts its use to a certain population.

“As we know with this disease, the likelihood of death changes markedly with age. And so the risk benefit for a vaccine is likely to be very different by age. We’ll deal with a very large amount of the population who have the mortality loaded against them at the moment.”

It's likely the over-50s and those already suffering from conditions that drastically lower the effectiveness of the immune system will be the first in line for the vaccine. The general population will have to wait until the shot is more widely available. 

Vaccine

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Coronavirus vaccine: How safe is it?

The short answer? Very. The large number of trials conducted across multiple pharmaceutical companies ensures safety for starters, but the information will be published and checked by other scientists prior to release. If the data is wrong or harmful in any way, it is extremely likely to be caught before general release. 

As mentioned in this BBC article, approval will only be given for a vaccine if government regulators are happy it's both safe and effective. This means the vaccine will also be cross-checked by government experts, in addition to third-party scientists.

However, the vaccine is less popular than many have hoped. According to a study by King's College, only 53% of Britons would willingly take the vaccine. In the US, the origin of a growing anti-vaccination movement, the situation is even more divisive. Communities and individual states remain divided on the effectiveness of masks, let alone a vaccine. 

Coronavirus vaccine: When can I get one?

Unless you're a key worker or elderly person in the US or UK, don't expect a vaccine until 2021. Although the UK government has reportedly pre-ordered 100 million doses of the vaccine, a confirmed success won't be announced at least until the end of the year, with the vaccine highly unlikely to enter mass-production until 2021. 

Although America is expecting doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine to roll out across all 50 states, a plan for distribution is still in flux - there's a lot of red tape to go. 

Until the vaccine is readily available, it's masks on, sanitising regularly and adhering to strict social distancing policies, we're afraid!

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