Research Roundup: J&J releases interim vaccine data, African Union secures 270 million vaccine doses, and experts affirm need for next-generation vaccines
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Interim data from the phase 1/2a clinical trial of Johnson & Johnson’s (J&J) COVID-19 vaccine candidate indicates the single-dose shot induced an immune response and was generally well-tolerated among trial participants aged 18 to 55. Neutralizing antibodies against COVID-19 were observed in more than 90 percent of volunteers 29 days post-vaccination and in 100 percent of volunteers 57 days post-vaccination. The vaccine—the furthest along candidate that only requires one dose—was developed by Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of J&J using its AdVac vaccine platform, which was also used to develop Janssen’s Ebola vaccine as well as investigational Zika, RSV, and HIV vaccine candidates. The company expects to release data on participants over the age of 65 as well as results from its phase 3 trial later this month, after which it would submit applications for authorization from the US Food and Drug Administration and regulatory bodies globally.
The African Union (AU) has secured provisional commitments to procure around 270 million COVID-19 vaccine doses, 50 million of which would be available before April 2021. The doses—to be supplied by Pfizer, AstraZeneca, and J&J—will be distributed among the AU’s 55 member states in pursuit of achieving herd immunity across the content. The new agreements are independent from doses secured through the COVAX Facility, a global mechanism to speed up development, manufacturing, and equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, which has pledged to procure and supply vaccines for about 20 percent of each participating country’s population. The continent’s vaccine strategic plan entails vaccinating at least 60 percent of its 1.2 billion individuals, according to the director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
As the first COVID-19 vaccines—from Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca—are manufactured and distributed around the world, experts say there will still be plenty of need for follow-up products in the fight against the pandemic. While current vaccine launches provide hope for an end to the “acute phase of the pandemic,” longer-term management of the disease will require a larger arsenal of technologies. The next generation of vaccines could also offer advantages to the fight that the first round could not, including potential for single doses, easier mass manufacturing ability, or less rigid temperate requirements. There are currently at least 20 COVID-19 vaccine candidates in the final phase of clinical trials and dozens more in preclinical and early clinical stages.