Vaccines are considered to be the most promising remedy for Sars-CoV-2 and the Covid-19 disease caused by the virus. The first preparations have now been approved. The re are still many challenges – and the mutations in the virus create additional problems.
It usually takes many years to find a vaccine against a pathogen – and the process can fail at any stage. Why it usually takes so long has been explained by our colleagues from “Research News” here. In the case of Sars-CoV-2, the researchers were lucky: The sequence of the virus genome, in this case single-stranded RNA, was quickly known and the first research projects could already be tackled in early 2020.
Which vaccines are already approved?
Three vaccines are approved in the European Union: On the one hand, the mRNA vaccine from the German company Biontech, which is produced together with the US company Pfizer, and a similarly structured vaccine from the US pharmaceutical company Moderna.
A decision has already been taken on the comparatively classic vaccine from Oxford University and the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca. It is a so-called vector vaccine based on monkey adenoviruses. In contrast to the vaccine from Biontech and Pfizer, the vaccine can be stored at normal refrigerator temperatures and can therefore be more easily distributed via general practitioners’ practices.
Vaccines from China, India and Russia are already in use internationally.
How effective are the previous vaccines?
According to the Mainz-based company Biontech and the US pharmaceutical company Pfizer, their vaccine proves to be effective in 95 percent of the cases. One is optimistic that the immunizing effect of a vaccination will last for at least a year, it said after the first study results became known.
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) gave the vaccine from AstraZeneca and Oxford University an effectiveness of 60 percent. If the dosage is individualized, this value can be increased, according to AstraZeneca.
Several companies are currently checking whether their vaccines are also effective against the new coronavirus variants, especially from Great Britain and South Africa. Different results were found here. South Africa had stopped the planned start of vaccination with the vaccine from AstraZeneca due to doubts about its effectiveness in the virus variant spread in the country. Like Moderna, the manufacturer is already working on a revised version. EU Health Commissioner Kyriakides has already promised an accelerated approval process for such vaccines.
What other promising vaccine candidates are there?
The US pharmaceutical company announced that the documents had been submitted to the US FDA. According to a previously published global study, the vaccine is 66 percent effective.
The company expects the first results to be available at the end of the first quarter of 2021. At the end of December, the US company Novavax also started a phase III study in the USA.
The US group Merck & Co has announced that it will focus only on the development of corona drugs after its vaccines did not show any corresponding success in early clinical development.
What about the vaccines from Russia?
Russia was the first country in the world to approve a vaccine in August – without testing on tens of thousands of people. According to the Russian Ministry of Health, “Sputnik V” is effective in more than 90 percent of cases. A study published in the journal “
The Lancet” came to a similar conclusion. Federal Minister of Health Spahn justified the effectiveness with the use of different vectors for the first and second vaccination.
The Russian state fund, which financed the development of Sputnik V, said that the necessary documents had already been submitted in mid-January. However, the EMA has not yet received a formal application for approval by February 10th. Hungary did not wait for a European decision and already allowed “Sputnik V”.
What happens after a corona vaccine has been approved?
The Hamburg virologist Marylyn Addo said on Deutschlandfunk that initially there was not enough manufacturing capacity available in the world. A resource war predicted by Addo could already be observed in the debate over the distribution of the AstraZeneca vaccine between the UK and the EU.
It is clear that it is precisely at the beginning that you have to choose who will get a vaccination first. In Germany, the German Ethics Council, the National Science Academy Leopoldina and the Standing Vaccination Commission (StIKo) at the Robert Koch Institute have drawn up recommendations on this. First of all, older people should be vaccinated. However, the strategy has been partially revised as the AstraZeneca vaccine is not initially intended to be used in people over 65.
Will a vaccine end the pandemic?
A quick end to the pandemic has not yet been achieved through the approval and use of vaccines. On the one hand, because it takes a certain amount of time before enough people are vaccinated to achieve what is known as herd immunity. In Germany and other EU countries, the speed of vaccinations is criticized. However, many countries around the world have not even started. In addition, it is not clear whether vaccination can be carried out quickly enough to counteract the development of more dangerous virus mutations.
The “Economist” recently reported that corona viruses could continue to spread for years.
For example, there is a preliminary evaluation of health insurance data from Israel about the funds from Biontech and Pfizer, which was rated as encouraging. But it is still not fully clear how long the vaccines will be effective and what exactly they will prevent – whether only severe courses will be eliminated or the spread of the coronavirus will be reliably contained.
Further articles on the coronavirus
We have created a news blog. In view of the large amount of information, this provides an overview of the most important current developments.
+ Extended lockdown: what rules apply and what opening perspectives are there? (As of February 17th)
+ New rules: How the federal states implement the lockdown resolutions (as of February 17)
+ Border controls: what to watch out for (as of February 15)
Test and protection
The vaccination ordinance: who will be vaccinated first, who later? (As of: February 17th)
+ Dates: how, when and where can I get vaccinated? (Status: February 12th)
+ Vaccinations: What is known about the side effects of the corona vaccine (as of February 16)
+ Astrazeneca vaccine: reports of side effects and acceptance problems – experts disagree (17.02.)
+ Protection: So it is about the development of vaccines against the coronavirus (as of February 15)
+ Change of strategy: are rapid tests the breakthrough in fighting pandemics? (As of February 16)
+ Sick people: New insights into the search for drugs (as of January 30)
Treatment: How does an antibody drug work and when is it useful? (As of January 25th)
+ Economy: How the world of work deals with the number of infections (as of February 16)
Contagion and Transmission
+ Virus variants: how dangerous are the new mutations of the coronavirus? (As of: February 17th)
+ Opponents of infection protection measures: What AfD and lateral thinkers have to do with the spread of the coronavirus in Germany (as of 02/09)
+ Transfer: What role do aerosols play (as of January 22)
+ Excess mortality: how deadly is the coronavirus really? (Status: 05.02.)
+ Travel warning:
The current list of risk areas (as of February 17th)
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