As in the 1960s, the world experienced a thrilling space race, governments today are devoting human and financial resources to the race for the Covid-19 vaccine. In the face of the tens of thousands of deaths and the economic standstill due to the crisis, states are exhibiting power by showing their scientists on the verge of a possible remedy to this pandemic. Everyone is competing to be a pioneer. Getting a national vaccine will raise the morale of their citizens as well as awaken patriotism. Who will be the first?
The United States
A groundbreaking idea, obscene according to some, exciting and logical according to its defenders, is making its way into the United States: betting on an experiment involving two hundred volunteers who agree to be infected with coronavirus and receive, in exchange, either the experimental vaccines or placebos. A leap in the procedure that, according to the promoters of the idea, would save several crucial months in the search for a cure. But it obviously presents problems of an ethical nature that are difficult to avoid.
In France, the Pasteur Institute and the pharmaceutical giant Sanofi are part of the race for the vaccine, as well as a good handful of biotechnology laboratories, some involved in joint projects. However, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe himself lowered hopes by multiplying the number of candidates this week “no less than 116 candidates” in progress – including Sanofi and Pasteur – but no firm results are expected before “mid 2021”, however much attempts are made to shorten the timeframe.
Scientists at Oxford University began human trials of a possible vaccine for Covid-19 last Thursday. The experts began their first analyses last January and have now begun working with 510 volunteers aged 18 to 55 at the University Hospital in Southampton (south-west England).
Angela Merkel on Friday urged all public and private actors with financial capacity to contribute to the WHO fund to develop a coronavirus vaccine. “We still have a pretty big financial hole to fill,” Merkel said in a video call with the promoters of the donor conference scheduled for May 4, and alluded to a financial hole of 8 billion euros that the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board said would be needed for vaccine development. The Chancellor assured that Germany would make a “substantial contribution” to this fund and said she hoped that international cooperation would bear fruit in this area.
Russia began work on a vaccine against Covid-19 as early as February, when neighboring China became a potential threat due to the constant flow of travelers between its borders. At this time, WHO has included up to nine Russian vaccines in the list of candidates, with among the most promising being those developed by the Russian Centre for Virology and Biotechnology, Vektor, based in Novosibirsk. These studies are mainly based on vaccines against Ebola, measles or influenza A, and have been cited by several sources in the Russian Ministry of Health. In addition to Vektor, the company Biocad, one of the largest laboratories in the country with almost three thousand employees, is working on two vaccines, one live from the flu virus and one encapsulated.
In early 2021. Beijing announced on Friday that they could have the Covid-19 vaccine ready by that date, putting them in first place in the global race to achieve the coveted injection. Chinese researchers have been working on at least five vaccines for months and, according to the Chinese Ministry of Health, would have already tested a prototype in humans that they could even use in September if necessary.