How many coronavirus vaccines are in phase 3 right now?

coronavirus vaccines in phase 3
Photo via Jernej Furman/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

A coronavirus vaccine apparently could be ready by the end of 2020 (though not likely before the presidential election), but in the fall, two of the companies who were apparently closing in on finding a vaccine have hit snags. Despite the hiccups, a total of 11 potential coronavirus vaccines are in phase 3 of their development, almost assuredly meaning a COVID-19 vaccine will be the fastest ever created.  

As of mid-October, nearly a dozen companies around the globe had moved potential vaccines into phase 3 of their development, according to the New York Times tracker.

Here’s how the phases work in vaccine development. The preclinical phase occurs when animals like monkeys or mice are given the vaccine to see if they release an immune response. Phase 1 occurs when a small group of humans receives the potential vaccine to see if their immune system responds. Phase 2 occurs when hundreds of people are given the inoculation to see how the vaccine works within different demographics. Phase 3 occurs when thousands of people receive the vaccine (or receive a placebo instead) to determine if the vaccine is effective and safe.

In the months leading up to the presidential race, Donald Trump has been adamant that a vaccine needs to appear before Nov. 3. But in September, the British-Swedish company AstraZeneca and the University Oxford had to temporarily halt its phase 3 study after a volunteer suffered a spinal cord inflammation. The study continued a few days later, but not in the U.S. And since the AstraZeneca vaccine requires two different shots about a month apart, there’s worry that this potential vaccine is in limbo, according to Stat News. “Now, we’re waiting as the lab rats in the corner,” one U.S. participant told the website. On Oct. 21, it was reported that a Brazilian man in the AstraZeneca trial had died of coronavirus complications, but the trial continued because he was given the placebo.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which would require only one shot, also had to be paused in mid-October after one participant had an “unexplained illness.” Meanwhile, Pfizer said it wouldn’t seek emergency authorization for its vaccine until after the presidential election. On Nov. 9, Pfizer announced that early data showed its vaccine candidate was effective 90% of the time.

But just because a vaccine has to be temporarily halted, that doesn’t mean the news is completely negative. As Johnson & Johnson said in a statement, “Adverse events—illnesses, accidents, etc.—even those that are serious, are an expected part of any clinical study, especially large studies.” The same was said after AstraZeneca paused its phase 3 trials.

Still, that leaves nine other companies who are working on their vaccine who haven’t had to halt their phase 3 trials yet, including Moderna, Sinovac, and the Russian vaccine that initially sparked skepticism from many of the world’s experts.

According to the New York Times, there are 29 vaccines in phase 1 trials and 14 in phase 2.

Read more on the coronavirus vaccine:

Sources: New York Times, Stat News, CNN

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