FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) Responses to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic have come on the economic and social fronts in order to buy time until medical advancements can contain the virus’ spread.
In the last week, more positive reports have started to emerge from the medical community regarding both preventative and responsive treatments.
At England’s Oxford University, scientists at the Jenner Institute and Oxford Vaccine Group have begun the human trial phase of a vaccine for COVID-19.
The vaccine takes genetic material which makes proteins from the COVID-19 virus, and adds it to a weakened version of a common cold virus “that has been genetically changed so that it is impossible for it to grow in humans” according to the Oxford Vaccine Group website.
The vaccine hopes to make the human body recognize the COVID-19 proteins, called Spike glycoprotein (S), and develop an immune response to them that will help stop the COVID-19 virus from entering human cells, preventing infection.
“Well, personally, I have a high degree of confidence about this vaccine because it’s technology I’ve used before,” says Sarah Gilbert, Professor of Vaccinology at Oxford, and one of the scientists spearheading the research.
The U.K. Minister of Health has made £20 million available to the Oxford researchers. The Serum Institute of India, the largest supplier of vaccines in the world, is getting ready to produce the vaccine next month, even before human trials conclude.
Across the pond, in the United States, reports emerged Wednesday morning that an experimental antiviral drug developed by Gilead Sciences, called remdesivir, has proved effective against the novel coronavirus.
According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), clinical trials of remdesivir show efficacy on two fronts. “Preliminary results indicate that patients who received remdesivir had a 31% faster time to recovery than those who received placebo,” says an NIH report. “Specifically, the median time to recovery was 11 days for patients treated with remdesivir compared with 15 days for those who received placebo. Results also suggested a survival benefit, with a mortality rate of 8.0% for the group receiving remdesivir versus 11.6% for the placebo group.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), has said that what this proves “is that a drug can block this virus. This will be the standard of care.”
In an email response to this station as to if and when the Oxford vaccine will be widely available in the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has said that “a number of experimental designs are currently under consideration, and any design chosen will most likely be one that expedites the process of finding out whether a safe vaccine is effective in preventing COVID-19.”
The email goes on to say that they cannot comment on unapproved products, however, “When clinical data on a particular vaccine are available and a sponsor submits a biologics license application (BLA), FDA will expeditiously evaluate these data together with manufacturing and preclinical data to determine whether the data demonstrate the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine.
Regarding remdesivir, AP reports that the FDA has been talking with Gilead Sciences “regarding making remdesivir available to patients as quickly as possible, as appropriate.”
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