Searching for solutions to COVID-19

Companies are racing for a vaccine, but a new roadblock has caused huge concern

For months, AstraZeneca has worked closely with Oxford University for their COVID-19 vaccine studies

For months, AstraZeneca has worked closely with Oxford University for their COVID-19 vaccine studies

Alex Kajda, Staff Writer

Ever since COVID-19 spread to an uncontrollable level in March, many companies in all facets of the globe are trying their hardest to find a vaccine for the disease. The US government recently reached deals with GSK and Sanofi for over $2.1 billion for 100 million initial doses of the vaccine. Sanofi expects “a Phase 1/2 study to start in September, followed by a Phase 3 study by the end of 2020. If the data are positive, the companies can request US regulatory approval in the first half of 2021” (Contagion Live). Pfizer and BioNTech are in Phase 3 of their trial currently and expect results by October. Moderna has a trial occurring with 24,000 subjects already involved in it, while Novavax has claimed that they can create 2 billion doses of their own vaccine. Russia has already released a vaccine, the Sputnik V, which has, unsurprisingly, drawn its own criticisms around the globe. However, one of the most popular and closely monitored vaccine efforts has recently run into a major setback which could halt the rest of the vaccine race as we know it.

AstraZeneca Plc has been a huge leader in the COVID-19 vaccine search. With their research taking place at Oxford University, it’s no shock that their discoveries have been seen as the standard for the vaccine search. However, when one U.K patient suffered severe spinal cord damage, AstraZeneca’s entire study went on pause. It’s still unknown whether the person’s issue is a side effect of the vaccine or just a coincidence. However, when news of this broke, most companies in the midst of clinical testing for their own vaccines decided that they will “make safety a priority and take the time necessary to make science prevail” (Bloomberg). For those hoping that a vaccine could be ready by the end of the year, the reality is growing more grim after this latest roadblock.

The situation is a stern reminder that speed usually compromises safety, and many companies are willing to slow down their vaccine discovery process in order to ensure the safety of the people they’re testing. Different opinions are emerging as a result of many companies being in their testing stages of a vaccine. Bill Gates believes that many vaccines will be available by early 2021, U.S President Donald Trump states that a vaccine could be ready in a couple of weeks (I’ll let the readers make their mind up about this one), while the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention believes a vaccine will be available by November or December.

But for now, many companies are holding their breaths awaiting the studies of the AstraZeneca victim’s unique illness. AstraZeneca has actually resumed their U.K studies, but their U.S trials are still paused. It could turn out that the damage that the patient sustained has nothing to do with the vaccine, in which studies would go on as normal. But if worse comes to worse, expect the vaccine process to take even longer as companies work to ensure safety among their subjects and citizens.