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In hopeful news, BioNTech Chief Executive Ugur Sahin has said that deliveries of BioNTech-Pfizer vaccines could come as early as Christmas this year, if ‘all goes well’.

He told Reuters TV, “If all goes well I could imagine that we gain approval (from US FDA) in the second half of December and start deliveries before Christmas, but really only if all goes positively,” he said.

This comes after the drugmaker Pfizer on Wednesday said that their coronavirus vaccine candidate has shown 95 per cent efficacy in the late-stage trial.

They said the efficacy of the vaccine developed with German partner BioNTech SE was consistent across age and ethnicity demographics, and that there were no major side effects, a sign that the immunization could be employed broadly around the world.

On Monday, Moderna had also announced that its experimental Covid-19 vaccine ‘mRNA-1273’ was 94.5 per cent effective in preventing coronavirus. The statement was issued on the basis of interim data from a late-stage clinical trial.

AstraZeneca vaccine candidate shows promise among elderly in trials

Meanwhile, in another promising news, a potential coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca Plc and Oxford University has produced a strong immune response in older adults.

Giving hope that it may protect some of those most vulnerable to coronavirus, data from mid-stage trials showed that those aged over 70 could build robust immunity to the pandemic disease, researchers said according to a Reuters report.

The robust antibody and T-cell responses seen in older people in our study are encouraging,” said Maheshi Ramasamy, a consultant and a co-lead investigator at the Oxford Vaccine Group.

“The populations at greatest risk of serious COVID-19 disease include people with existing health conditions and older adults. We hope that this means our vaccine will help to protect some of the most vulnerable people in society, but further research will be needed before we can be sure.”

Late-stage, or Phase III, trials are ongoing to confirm the findings, researchers said, and to test whether the vaccine protects against infection with SARS-CoV-2 in a broad range of people, including people with underlying health conditions.

Third phase of Covaxin trials to start in Haryana on November 20

As the race for coronavirus vaccine heats up, the third phase trial of Indian vaccine candidate Covaxin is also set to start.

Indian coronavirus vaccine developer Bharat Biotech on Wednesday said the third phase of trial of Covaxin, a potential vaccine against Covid-19, will begin on November 20 in Haryana.

Covaxin is being developed indigenously by Bharat Biotech in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). The trials will take place at Post Graduate Institute of Medical Science, Rohtak in Haryana.

Last month, the vaccine maker had said it had successfully completed interim analysis of Phase 1 and 2 trials and is initiating Phase 3 trials.

Bharat Biotech had on Monday said the Phase 3 trial of Covaxin will involve 26,000 volunteers across 25 centres in India and is being conducted in partnership with the ICMR.

It is the largest clinical trial conducted for a COVID-19 vaccine in India. This is India’s first Phase 3 efficacy study for a COVID-19 vaccine, and the largest Phase 3 efficacy trial ever conducted.

Potential Covid-19 vaccines not affected by virus mutation

Meanwhile, those worried whether the vaccines can protect against coronavirus mutation, can also hope for some good news. A new study involving a University of York virologist has said that vaccines currently being developed for Covid-19 should not be affected by recent mutations in the virus.

Most vaccines under development worldwide have been modeled on the original ‘D-strain’ of the virus, which was more common amongst sequences published early in the pandemic.

Since then, the virus has evolved to the globally dominant ‘G-strain’, which now accounts for about 85 per cent of published SARS-CoV-2 genomes.

There had been fears that the G-strain, within the main protein on the surface of the virus, would negatively impact vaccines under development. But the research by Australia’s national science agency – the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) – found no evidence that the change would adversely impact the efficacy of vaccine candidates.

WHO says virus wave must be fought without vaccines

On the other hand, the World Health Organization’s emergencies director warned Wednesday that vaccines would not arrive in time to defeat the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, reported AFP.

The WHO’s Michael Ryan said vaccines should not be seen as a “unicorn” magic solution — and countries battling a resurgence of the virus would once again have to “climb this mountain” without them.

Despite recent promising announcements from final-phase candidate vaccine trials, “We’re not there with vaccines yet,” said Ryan.

“Many countries are going through this wave, and they’re going to go through this wave, and continue through this wave, without vaccines. We need to understand and internalise that, and realise: we have got to climb this mountain this time, without vaccines,” AFP quoted Ryan as saying.

Scientists warn volunteers still need to test variety of coronavirus vaccines

Moreover, scientists have warned that it may be too early to rejoice.

While two Covid-19 vaccines might be nearing the finish line, scientists caution it’s critical that enough people volunteer to help finish studying other candidates in the US and around the world, reported Associated Press.

Scientists said multiple vaccines will be needed to meet global demand and help end the pandemic, raising concern that studies that still need to sign up thousands of volunteers could run short if people wait for an already OK’d option instead.

Supplies aside, other COVID-19 vaccines under development may work differently in different populations and “we likely will benefit from having a menu of vaccine options,” Dr. James Cutrell, an infectious disease expert at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.

“We still need volunteers,” stressed National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins, urging Americans to sign up.

“It’s one thing to be effective two months after your last vaccination and another thing to be effective a year” later, said Dr. Jesse Goodman of Georgetown University, a former director of the FDA’s vaccine division. “It’s going to be really important to complete these clinical trials and the trials of the other vaccines so we can make comparisons.”

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