Research on vaccines has started on more than 100 candidates. To our knowledge in August 2020 around 20 of them have entered clinical trials. A few are already in phase 3.
Considering the spread of the pandemic and the absence of curative medicine, the authorization for marketing a vaccine could be given through an accelerated process based on safety and demonstration of immunogenicity. If the Phase 3 results are positive the first license could be given at the end of 2020. There is an international competition between the companies involved in Covid-19 vaccine research. Besides humanitarian considerations, not only financial interest but also political issues are playing a role in this race.
However, there is some international collaboration in Covid-19 vaccines development, coming from the WHO, and other international institutions. For example, vaccines are developed under the auspices of the Innovations Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness, an international non-governmental organization dedicated to the development of vaccines and the prevention of epidemics.
What actions are taken by the European Union?
According to a statement issued in July 2020:
“the EU strategy rests on two pillars:
- Securing the production of vaccines in the EU and sufficient supplies for its Member States through Advance Purchase Agreements with vaccine producers via the: Emergency Support Instrument. Additional financing and other forms of support can be made available on top of such agreements.
- Adapting the EU's regulatory framework to the current urgency and making use of existing regulatory flexibility to accelerate the development, authorisation and availability of vaccines while maintaining the standards for vaccine quality, safety and efficacy.
- In order to support companies in the swift development and production of a vaccine, the European Commission will enter into agreements with individual vaccine producers on behalf of the Member States. In return for the right to buy a specified number of vaccine doses in a given timeframe, the Commission will finance part of the upfront costs faced by vaccines producers. This will take the form of Advance Purchase Agreements. Funding provided will be considered as a down-payment on the vaccines that will actually be purchased by Member States.
The related funding will come from a significant part of the €2.7 billion Emergency Support.
The EU is contributing to the global effort for universal testing, treatment and vaccination by mobilising resources through international pledging and by joining forces with countries and global health organisations through the Access To Covid-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator collaborative framework. The Global Coronavirus Response pledging campaign raised €9.8 billion by the end of May 2020. A second step is underway in partnership with Global Citizen and other governmental and non-governmental partners, culminating in a global pledging summit on 27 June”.
Observers agree on the probability that a few vaccines could be available at the end of 2020 or at the beginning of 2021. Hopefully their protected effect will be sufficient to prevent a second major pandemic. But one must keep in mind that because of the novelty of the technologies involved in the production of vaccines and of the accelerated process of clinical evaluation, there is no warranty that they will work as well as expected. Nevertheless, there is presently no better solution available.