GlaxoSmithKline, GSK, world’s largest vaccine maker, has said there will be no mass coronavirus vaccine until late next year, just as Pfizer said its COVID-19 jab could be ready by this autumn (from September).
Emma Walmsley, Chief Executive of GSK, said millions of doses would not be produced until the second half of 2021, ‘if things go right’.
In another promising development, major drug giant Pfizer, on Wednesday, announced it may have a coronavirus vaccine ready by the autumn.
The US-based company has already started mass manufacturing doses and is aiming to have ‘hundred of millions of doses’ ready by the end of the year.
Developing vaccinations usually takes many months or years, but researchers are hurtling towards human trials.
They say the process has been made easier because the virus, scientifically known as SARS-CoV-2, is not mutating and is similar to other viruses seen in the past.
University of Oxford scientists are also confident they can get their jab for the incurable virus rolled out for millions to use by autumn.
Ms Walmsley discussed the potential of a coronavirus jab being manufactured for the masses in a media briefing after the release of GSK’s first-quarter results.
She said: “If things go right, to get to scale of manufacturing in the hundreds of millions (of doses) is going to be in the second half of next year.”
It requires swift progress in global development efforts to show an experimental vaccine is safe, effective and dosed in the right way.
“An 18-month time line was an ambitious one to be going after, but one that everyone is targeting.”
As many as 100 potential COVID-19 candidate vaccines are now under development by biotech and research teams around the world.
And at least five of these, including one developed by Oxford University experts, are in preliminary testing in people in what are known as Phase 1 clinical trials.
GSK and rival vaccine maker Sanofi, this month, teamed up for a coronavirus vaccine project.
It is the latest in a string of alliances that have seen the Brentford-based drug maker contributing its expertise on adjuvants.
Adjuvants are efficacy boosters that allow for lower dosing of the immunising active ingredient in a vaccine.
“The world needs several vaccines and there are several different approaches,” Ms Walmsley said.
Pfizer’s by September
Meanwhile, major American pharmaceutical corporation, Pfizer, has announced it could have a coronavirus vaccine ready by the fall.
Pfizer’s Chief Executive Officer, Albert Bourla, said on Tuesday that a coronavirus vaccine for emergency use could be ready by the autumn and for broader roll out by the end of 2020.
It has already started testing the vaccine on humans in Germany with its partner firm BioNTech and hopes to begin testing in America soon.
The company has already started mass manufacturing doses, while trials are underway and is aiming to have “hundred of millions of doses ready for the end of the year.”
How vaccines work
Speaking to The Wall Street Journal, Pfizer’s CEO Bourla stated that “this is a crisis right now, and a solution is desperately needed by all.”
Many traditional vaccines, such as the MMR jabs given to children in the UK, contain inactivated antigens made by the pathogen.
Injections of the antigens train the immune system to recognise the tell-tale proteins given off by the virus, to fight it off in the future.
mRNA vaccines— such as the one developed by Pfizer — work slightly differently, and do not directly inject antigens into body.
Instead, they teach the immune system how to produce them itself by injecting the body with a molecule that tells disease-fighting cells what to build.
Scientists at Imperial College London have used a similar technique for their experimental COVID-19 vaccine.
However, theirs relies on self-amplifying RNA, which they claim is effective at “up to 1,000 times lower doses” than mRNA.