Coronavirus vaccine race first results far from having a clear winner: These are the options of AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson - Last week Pfizer and Moderna kicked off the final race for coronavirus vaccines after announcing that their candidates had demonstrated more than 94% effectiveness in preventing infections.

The results of the companies have been welcomed with open arms by the markets, society and other pharmaceutical companies, who see their strategy against the coronavirus validated.

"The results of Pfizer and Moderna are extremely positive and hopeful for the rest of vaccines," said Joaquín Duato, vice president of the Executive Committee of Johnson & Johnson, at the 2020 IESE Health Sector meeting.

Duato called the pharmaceutical releases "great news" and said that they support the strategy of many of the other vaccines (including Johnson & Johnson) that have chosen to attack the S protein.

The pandemic has generated a health crisis that will need more than one vaccine to meet its demands, so Pfizer and Moderna vaccines will not be enough.

Moreover, the need to bring the vaccine to third world countries and to ensure the levels of production needed to supply the world's population pose enormous challenges for which not all pharmaceutical companies are prepared.

Controlling COVID-19 is therefore a long-term battle in which companies are vying for a market that could be worth 10 billion dollars if the disease is endemic, as many experts believe it will be.

In short, the winning company will be the one that can offer the greatest number of benefits for all the challenges that need to be solved.

Coronavirus vaccine race first results

With AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson consolidating as the most likely candidates to follow Pfizer and Moderna, these are the advantages they could have to win over companies that have advanced in the race.

One of the disadvantages of modern vaccines, Pfizer and AstraZeneca is that they have to be administered in a two-dose regimen.

Although this does not affect effectiveness, it does increase production and distribution costs and the chances that the population will not adhere, since people must return for the second injection after a few weeks.

However, Johnson & Johnson could end up bringing a single-dose vaccine if its test results are as successful as expected.

Duato recalled that the company is now immersed in two parallel clinical trials that test its vaccine in a double-dose and single-dose regimen.

Johnson & Johnson started the ENSEMBLE trial of its single dose vaccine at the end of September with more than 60,000 individuals and now has just launched ENSEMBLE 2 of which Spain is part and which will have 30,000 volunteers.

It is expected to have results in the first months of 2021 if no contingencies arise and the results of the initial phases ensure that the vaccine induces an immune response based on neutralizing antibodies and is well tolerated by volunteers.

Pfizer's vaccine presents one of the biggest logistical challenges facing all countries due to the storage requirements of vaccine doses that require temperatures of 70 degrees below zero.

"It is difficult for vaccines to arrive in optimal conditions," explained Miguel Fernández, the CEO of Merck, at the Smart Business Meeting held by Business Insider Spain to delve into the challenges and opportunities of the pharmaceutical industry.

"In Spain and in general in advanced countries we have powerful logistics networks to guarantee the cold chain," said Fernández, who called for collaboration in the sector to ensure that Third World countries can access vaccines.

The minister of Health, Salvador Illa, has not been concerned about the challenges that distribution may present. "The vaccine has Conservation characteristics that make it unique, but the company itself has foreseen this and has provided the logistical means that will make us not have any type of problem in that sense neither in our country nor in any country of the European Union", he assured.

However, the World Health Organization has warned that no country is prepared for the storage and transport of this vaccine.

In that vein, Pfizer has recently launched a pilot program in four U.S. states to address the distribution challenges facing its vaccine.

"We hope that the results of this vaccine delivery pilot program will serve as a model for other U.S. states and international governments, as they prepare to implement effective COVID-19 vaccine programs," Pfizer said in a statement.

The pharmaceutical company is also working on other long-term alternatives and is shuffling the possibility of producing a version of its powder vaccine that would need only standard refrigeration by 2021.

The modern vaccine, meanwhile, can stay under standard cooling temperatures for a month and then would require a temperature of 20 degrees below zero. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine simply requires basic cooling temperatures.

AstraZeneca's storage requirements are still unclear. Earlier this month, the company said it was keeping its vaccine frozen in large containers. You are expected to add a final ingredient to your vials to keep them at normal refrigerator temperature as the vaccine approaches approval.

AstraZeneca seems the favorite of international markets

One of the factors that will play in favor of the winner will be his ability to make agreements with all countries. In that sense, for now AstraZeneca seems the favorite and highlights its presence in huge markets such as India.

This is the solution of each according to the countries that have already committed to buy the vaccines.

  • AstraZeneca: united States (300 million doses), European Union (300 million doses, with the possibility of acquiring other 100), Canada (20 million doses), India (400 million doses licenciables to other countries), the Uk (100 million doses), Japan (100 million doses), and Australia (to 33.8 million doses).
  • Pfizer: European Union (300 million doses), United Kingdom (40 million doses), United States (100 million doses with option to another 500 million), Japan (100 million doses) and Canada (20 million doses).
  • Modern: European Union (80 million doses), United States (100 million doses), Canada (56 million doses), Japan (50 million doses).
  • Johnson & Johnson: European Union (200 million doses and the possible acquisition of another 200 million more), Canada (38 million doses), United States (100 million doses).

J & J beats Moderna in terms of production capacity. Moderna has declared that it will be able to make about 500 million doses of mRNA-1273 next year, while J&J is already preparing to produce and distribute 1.000 million vaccines in 2021, according to Duato, who points out that they have already started manufacturing at risk.

For its part, AstraZeneca aims to produce 2.000 million doses of a vaccine against coronavirus, including 400 million for the United States and the United Kingdom and 1.000 million for developing countries thanks to its agreement with the Serum Institute of India.

Finally, Pfizer plans to manufacture up to 50 million doses of its vaccine in 2020 and up to 1.3 billion doses in 2021.

Many factors influence the pricing of a vaccine. Mainly it is the cost of manufacturing, since Pharmaceuticals seek to recover the enormous investment made, as well as obtain profits. In the case of the pandemic, many of the companies have received millions of dollars in aid from governments and non-profit organizations to speed up their research.

Other factors that may affect are the need for the vaccine, the effectiveness of the candidate or competing products.

In this scenario, the fact that some manufacturers such as AstraZeneca or Johnson & Johnson have assured that they will not seek profits for the duration of the pandemic has raised the pressure on other companies.

  • Pfizer: without a definitive figure, it has been confirmed that the European Union will pay less than the 16,50 euros for which the United States will be marketed.
  • AstraZeneca: the economic details of the EC agreement with AstraZeneca have not transcended. The company has assured that it will sell at cost price and that the manufacture of each dose costs only a couple of dollars. According to statements collected by Reuters, the Italian health minister would have encrypted at 2,5 euros the cost of each dose.
  • Modern: the company has not yet put an official figure to its vaccine, but it has advanced that it values to market it with a price while the pandemic lasts and raise it afterwards. Biotech could be considering selling the dose for between 25 and 30 dollars (between 21 and 25 euros), as sources familiar with the matter have assured the Financial Times. Considering that two doses would be needed, that puts the final price of the modern vaccine between 50 and 60 dollars (between 42.6 and 51 euros).
  • Johnson & Johnson: "the price will not be more than 10 dollars per vaccine," said Duato, who did not specify exact figure.

Coronavirus vaccine race first results


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