Covid has a new look. According to the World Health Organization’s top scientist, 19 vaccines, including those that don’t include needles and can be kept at room temperature, could be ready for use later this year or next year.
According to Soumya Swaminathan, the Geneva-based agency’s chief scientist, 6 to 8 new vaccinations could finish clinical trials and go through regulatory approval by the end of this year.
Within a year of Covid-19 being announced a pandemic, new vaccines will be added to the ten that have already been proven to function. More vaccinations are needed around the globe, particularly as the virus continues to circulate, spawning dangerous new variants and drugmakers struggle to keep up with demand. According to Bloomberg data, only 122 countries have begun immunizing their people.
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“We’re thrilled with the vaccines that we have. But we can improve further. I think, well into 2022, we’re going to see the emergence of improved vaccines.” said Swaminathan, an Indian pediatrician best known for her research on tuberculosis and HIV.
More single-shot immunizations and vaccines that are administered orally, through a nasal spray, or through the skin using a form of the patch are among the latest crop of experimental vaccines, which use alternative technologies and delivery systems. According to Swaminathan, these may bring immunizations that are best suited to certain groups, such as pregnant women.
More than 80 vaccine candidates are being tested in humans, but some are still in the early stages of development and could fail. Companies that still use Covid-19 vaccines have started testing modified versions intended to fight new coronavirus strains that have emerged in recent months.
“We need to continue to support the research and development of more vaccine candidates, especially as the need for ongoing booster immunization of populations is still not very clear at this point,” Swaminathan said. “So we need to be prepared for that in the future.”
The WHO’s strategic advisory committee of immunization experts is discussing if people who have been infected with SARS-CoV-2 deserve two vaccine doses. According to some studies, a natural infection acts to prime the immune response to SARS-CoV-2 in the same way that a first dose does, obviating the need for a second injection.
“The rollout of safe and effective vaccines is also raising questions about how to efficiently and ethically conduct clinical trials of experimental vaccines, she said. Placebos will be replaced with a gold standard vaccine in a so-called non-inferiority design when it’s no longer ethical to use a placebo”. Swaminathan said.