January 19 is annually observed as National Immunization Day 2021 in India. This year, the day will take on added significance with the Pulse Polio Programme being overshadowed by the pan India COVID-19 vaccination drive. Over the next few months, a whopping three crore people who are at most risk will be inoculated. Here’s the latest on the COVID-19 vaccines that show the most promise of eradicating this deadly epidemic from the face of the earth.
This is a ‘made in India’ vaccine developed by the experts at Bharat Biotech and backed by ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research) and the National Institute of Virology. The Modi government has authorised Covaxin for the vaccination drive which will continue on National Immunization Day 2021 and beyond.
The standard procedure is to take the Covaxin in two doses, spaced apart, so as to activate the immune system and guard against viral infection. The upside is that clinical trial data published in December showed no harmful side effects. Given as two doses, three weeks apart, the viral proteins in the vaccine activate the immune system and prepare the body for future infections. It can be stored at room temperature for a week, making it suitable for transport.
The second ‘made in India’ vaccine authorised for the vaccination drive, Covishield was developed by experts at the Pune-based Serum Institute. It has the University of Oxford and multinational corporation AstraZeneca behind it. It’s one of the earliest vaccines to go on trial. Mexico, Britain and Argentina have also authorised Covishield for emergencies.
This vaccine is also administered in two doses. It has shown more promise, 60%-70% in global trials, making it one of the most effective. Covishield is suitable for transport since it is effective at temperatures of 2-8 degrees Celsius for six months.
European countries have shown more affinity for Moderna. The European Union, USA, Canada and Israel have approved the mRNA vaccine. We are guessing it’s high effectiveness is the reason. It has a 94.1% rate of success in preventing COVID-19. Moderna is administered in the same way as Covishield – two doses, four weeks apart.
How it works is that the RNA (or mRNA) macromolecule forms the blueprint for producing the coronavirus spike protein. Your body’s cells use this genetic code to train the immune system for future infections from coronavirus.
4. Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine
Johnson & Johnson has been developing a single-dose vaccine that might be a game changer. Phase 3 trials have shown positive results in monkeys. It can be stored upto three months at cool temperatures and upto two years frozen. Trials with two doses are underway.
J&J’s vaccine uses “viral-vector” technology. Adenoviruses which are the culprits behind common cold are engineered to deliver the genetic code for the key “spike” protein in coronavirus instead. Much like Moderna, this causes the immune system to raise a response, increasing the antibody levels. The effect is said to last long after inoculation. In fact, antibody levels increased after 71 days of clinical trials with a single dose.
Pfizer-Biontech’s vaccine acts much in the same way as Moderna and J&J’s preventive vaccine. Viral-vector technology is the mechanism employed. It requires two doses, with a gap of three weeks in between. Seeing how there’s a 90% success rate, the UK, USA, Canada, Saudi Arabia, European Union, Singapore, Argentina and Mexico have authorised the Pfizer vaccine. The biggest flipside to largescale distribution is that it can only be stored ultracold.
6. Sputnik V
Russians have the tendency to give the moniker Sputnik to pratically every rocket, invention or gadget they come up with, so it’s no surprise that Russia’s most effective vaccine is called Sputnik V. Phase 3 trials indicates 90% effectiveness when administered in two doses.
It was created by Gamaleya Research Institute. Several countries have approved this vaccine, which uses a combination of two adenoviruses (Ad5 and Ad26). In dry form, the vaccine does not need to be frozen.
7. Novavax’s vaccine
Currently in Phase 3 of clinical trials, American firm Novavax’s COVID-19 vaccine has been successfully tested on animals. It uses another version of viral-vector technology can be stored at cool temperatures of 2-8 degrees Celsius.