In Brief

England and Germany ‘neck-and-neck’ in coronavirus vaccine race

Teams at Oxford University and BioNTech are competing to produce the first internationally accepted vaccination for Covid-19

The life-and-death sprint to find a drug that can protect us all from Covid-19 is a contest in which there ought to be no losers.

Yet the unprecedented efforts of the world’s scientists and drug companies to create a coronavirus vaccine have culminated in a familiar rivalry, says The Telegraph - “a playoff between teams in England and Germany”.

The first internationally licensed vaccine is expected to emerge either from Oxford University, in partnership with the Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical company Astra-Zeneca, or from Germany’s BioNTech and its US-based manufacturing partner Pfizer.

“Both products have completed successful phase one and two trials, with data suggesting they produced a ‘robust’ immune response - antibodies and T-cells - in volunteers after two doses,” the newspaper reports.

Scores of other potential vaccines are also under development, and in an unconventional move, two have been approved for use in their home countries before undergoing large-scale phase three trials.

Russia is planning to start mass vaccinations in October using a drug created by the Moscow-based Gameleya laboratory, while China will give soldiers a vaccine developed by medical lab CanSino and military researchers.

However, neither the Russian nor Chinese vaccine is likely to gain international acceptance without phase-three clinical trial results to reassure public health officials.

“Russia has released no scientific data as to the safety and effectiveness of its vaccine,” says CNBC.

By contrast, phase three trials of both the BioNTech and Oxford vaccines are well under way, and data from earlier testing has already been published.

“AstraZeneca has indicated they might be able to start delivering emergency vaccines as early as October, depending on the outcome of the studies,” says The New York Times. “Their phase one/two trial revealed that the vaccine was safe, causing no severe side effects.”

Although the German vaccine caused some “moderate side effects such as sleep disturbances and sore arms”, the paper adds, the drug also produced an effective immune response.

Both vaccines are likely to require two doses, according to The Telegraph, and “how long any protective effect will last” remains “unclear”.

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