It’s 4 AM on the coronavirus vaccine clock

July 1, 2020
It’s all about viruses today. First, we have some insights from the experts on when, exactly, we might have a COVID-19 vaccine. But it’s not all good news: there’s a new swine flu infecting pigs and farmers in China, and it’s worrisome. Here are 780 words, 4 minutes.

It’s all about viruses today. First, we have some insights from the experts on when, exactly, we might have a COVID-19 vaccine. But it’s not all good news: there’s a new swine flu infecting pigs and farmers in China, and it’s worrisome. Here are 780 words, 4 minutes.

It’s 4 AM on the coronavirus vaccine clock

End of 2020? Early 2021? It’s hard to pinpoint the exact timeline for delivery of a coronavirus vaccine, but we’re about one-third of the way there, said experts (including BIO’s Dr. Michelle McMurry-Heath).

We see progress on COVID-19 vaccines almost daily. Just yesterday, for example, BIO member Inovio said 94% of healthy volunteers in the Phase 1 study of their vaccine candidate showed an “overall immunological response,” reports Biopharma Dive.

If the start of the pandemic is midnight, and a return to normal is noon, what time is it today? It’s around 4 AM, according to experts who spoke to USA TODAY.

USA TODAY Vaccine Clock

What exactly does that mean? A vaccine could be available “by the middle of next year,” reports USA TODAY. With at least 11 candidates undergoing clinical trials this summer, and the science and scientists moving faster than ever before, we’re about one-third of the way there.

But approval isn’t the most important thing: “The important date isn’t when the first person in the USA can go to the doctor’s office and get the first shot. The important date is when we have enough coverage to prevent resurgence and recirculation among the human population,” said Erica Ollmann Saphire, a structural biologist and professor at the La Jolla Institute for Immunology.

Dr. Michelle’s Diagnosis: “The brightest minds in the world are in this fight, and they are moving with an incredible sense of urgency.” – BIO President and CEO Dr. Michelle McMurry-Heath


More Health Care News:

Forbes: Learning the right lessons from the race for an effective COVID-19 treatment
"With respect to the question of value, the lesson is clear. The high cost of innovation includes the large sums of money invested, the lost options of investing in other potential opportunities, and, separate from these costs, the many financial risks that have been incurred.”

The Wall Street Journal: FDA to require proof virus vaccine is effective before approving its use
“The Food and Drug Administration released guidance Tuesday outlining conditions for approving a COVID-19 vaccine, including that any vaccine be at least 50% more effective than a placebo in preventing the disease.”

There’s a new flu in town

A new strain of swine flu in China has worried experts around the globe. Here’s what we know, and what we can do.

A new strain of flu has infected pigs in China—and it has “all the essential hallmarks of a candidate pandemic virus,” according to researchers.

Here’s why it’s worrisome: “Pig farm workers also showed elevated levels of the virus in their blood, the authors [of the study] said, adding that ‘close monitoring in human populations, especially the workers in the swine industry, should be urgently implemented,’” explains Reuters.

It’s exhibiting “reassortment” capabilities, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease’s Dr. Anthony Fauci told the Senate HELP Committee yesterday

What does THAT mean? “In other words, when you get a brand-new virus that turns out to be a pandemic virus it’s either due to mutations and/or the reassortment or exchanges of genes,” he said. “And they’re seeing virus in swine, in pigs now, that have characteristics of the 2009 H1N1, of the original 1918, which many of our flu viruses have remnants of that in it, as well as segments from other hosts, like swine.”

But don’t panic yet: It’s not “an immediate threat where you’re seeing infections, but it’s something we need to keep our eye on, just the way we did in 2009 with the emergence of the swine flu,” Dr. Fauci continued.

Still, we cannot just sit and wait it out. “The study highlights the risks of viruses crossing the species barrier into humans, especially in densely populated regions in China, where millions live close to farms, breeding facilities, slaughterhouses, and wet markets,”  said Reuters

So, what do we do? It’s time for a workable animal biotech regulatory system as well as One Health policies that explore the links between human, animal, and environmental health—and we need these policies now, before the next pandemic hits. Here are BIO's thoughts on where we could start.

BIO Beltway Report

President Trump’s Wednesday: Lunch with the Secretary of State. Vice President Mike Pence is visiting Arizona to discuss the COVID-19 response with the governor.

What’s Happening on Capitol Hill: The Senate is working on the National Defense Authorization Act, while the House is taking up the $1.5 trillion infrastructure package. Meanwhile, U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) are expected to introduce the U.S. Pharmaceutical Supply Chain Review Act, which would “require the government to study the effects of relying on foreign companies and foreign investment for the production of pharmaceuticals for the U.S. market,” according to a Reuters exclusive.

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