Amid the continuous spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in different parts of the world, World Health Organisation’s chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan has confirmed that new coronavirus vaccines will be launched by the end of this year or next year.
Dr Swaminathan said that six-to-eight vaccines are likely to finish clinical studies and undergo regulatory review by the end of the year, news agency Bloomberg reported.
“We’re thrilled with the vaccines that we have but we can improve further. I think, well into 2022, we’re going to see the emergence of improved vaccines,” said Swaminathan, a paediatrician best known for her research on tuberculosis and HIV.
Further revealing details about the new COVID-19 vaccines, the WHO chief scientist added that the forthcoming vaccines will include ones that don’t require needles, only require single-shot inoculations, can be administered orally (via nasal spray), or through the skin using a type of patch and can be stored at room temperature.
More than 80 vaccine candidates are currently under the early-stage trial. Swaminathan added, “We need to continue to support the research and development of more vaccine candidates, especially as the need for ongoing booster immunisation of populations is still not very clear at this point”.
Dr Swaminathan informed that placebos will be replaced with a “gold standard” vaccine in order to efficiently and ethically conduct clinical trials of experimental vaccines.
The WHO is exploring options to compare three or four candidate vaccines simultaneously with a placebo. A similar study design was used to test the efficacy of the drug for COVID-19. Under this, a trial participant would have an 80 per cent chance of receiving an experimental vaccine and only a 20 per cent chance of getting placebo.
“We are in discussions now with several companies with vaccines in development to see if we could launch something like this on a global trial platform,” Swaminathan said.
Several existing COVID-19 vaccines-making firms have also begun testing updated versions to thwart the new variant of the virus.