Standard clinical trials take anywhere from 2–4 years, respectively, however there is an unprecedented push to see clinical trials for COVID-19 accelerated in efforts to eliminate the pandemic and see COVID-19 listed as a vaccine preventable disease. Vaccines and immunisation schedules are responsible for preventing 2–3 million deaths every year.
Vaccine trials are classified by phases 1–4, one being the commencement of a trial to a small number of people, and phase four the approval of a vaccine for use, with continued monitoring for unknown side effects.
As of 3rd November 2020, according to the WHO, there were 47 recognised vaccine manufacturers with vaccines in active clinical phases, with 20 vaccines identified as phase three. There are 155 additional trials classified as ‘pre-clinical’, indicating they are at work on a vaccine to commence in phase one.
While the Olympic games have been cancelled (for the second time ever) in 2020, a sort of ‘medical research marathon’ has evolved, as countries come together to achieve (what has become a catch phrase) global solidarity in finding preventative measures and treatments for COVID-19.
Future COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution — COVAX
When a safe and effective vaccine is declared, the WHO has indicated vaccine distribution is to be overseen by an initiative called COVAX.
COVAX is tasked with reducing the burden on societies and economies through global equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines. As of late August 2020, 172 high income countries, including AU and NZ, were engaged with COVAX through purchasing agreements, commencing October 2020. Of note, The University of Queensland is named as developing one of the nine vaccines supported by COVAX.
It is indicated that COVAX will pool participant country resources to ensure that economy is not a barrier to vaccine access, allowing low income economies to be included. Importantly, it looks to accelerate the completion of clinical trials that would otherwise take an extended period. Preference for vaccination is to be aimed at healthcare workers and vulnerable populations, distributed fairly with a continued emphasis on the key term global solidarity.
COVAX is co-led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI). The CEPI faculty began in 2017 with a view to fund and channel vaccine development towards prevention of epidemics, in response to events such as the devastating 2014 Ebola epidemic. Sadly, there had been an Ebola vaccine in development for over ten years, however this was not deployed for a year into the epidemic — and proved to be 100% effective.
Information on COVAX can be found here.
Ensuring that aged care facility staff are appropriately vaccinated is a crucial part of infection prevention and control and antimicrobial stewardship. If you have any questions about these or other IPC/AMS practices in your facility, why not contact Bug Control with your questions?