US researchers share COVID-19 vaccine with world | Coronavirus pandemic news

U.S. researchers have developed an inexpensive, easy-to-produce COVID-19 vaccine that may offer a solution Unequal access to vaccines in developing countries.

Bypassing the patent restrictions of major pharmaceutical companies, physicians Maria Elena Bottazzi and Peter Hotez of the Vaccine Development Center at Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital have used traditional vaccine technology that can be rapidly deployed to help vaccinate the global population.

“There are countries where vaccination rates and vaccine coverage are ridiculously low. We really have to do better,” Botazzi told Al Jazeera. “We really need to vaccinate the world.”

About 10 billion doses of the vaccine have been produced globally since mid-2020, but more than 70 percent of the vaccine produced last year was consumed by rich countries, according to public health experts.Two years after the coronavirus pandemic, important parts of the world remain Mostly unvaccinated, at the risk that dangerous new variants — such as Delta and Omicron — will continue to emerge.

While major vaccine makers such as Pfizer and Moderna struggle to protect their intellectual property, Bottazzi and Hotez have developed a vaccine that is freely available to drugmakers around the world.

It’s called Corbevax, and it relies on traditional production methods and is based on a model the pair developed to deal with SARS, a strain of coronavirus that broke out in the early 2000s.

Electron microscope images provided by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases-Rocky Mountain Laboratories show particles of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 emerging from the surface of cells grown in the laboratory, isolated from a patient in the United States .The SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19, isolated from a patient in the United States, is seen under an electron microscope in July 2020 [The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases via AP]

Corbevax has been approved for emergency use in India, where a vaccine maker produces 100 million doses a month, according to Bottazzi and Hotez.

Vaccine makers in Bangladesh and Indonesia have also been granted licenses, and Botswana is in talks for production, meaning hundreds of millions of doses could be produced each month in the country that needs it most.

“It’s very exciting,” Bottazzi said. “We’ve never done a billion dollars before.”

“Transformative” Potential

Corbevax marks “very important progress” in the fight against COVID-19, said Lawrence Gostin, a professor of global health law at Georgetown Law School in Washington, D.C.

“Texas really did it the right way by giving up their intellectual property and cooperating on technology transfer,” Gostin told Al Jazeera. “It has the potential to be a transformative addition to our vaccine arsenal.”

the broader U.S. vaccine development program, Operation warp, which focuses on new vaccine technology based on messenger RNA (mRNA), which teaches cells how to make proteins that trigger an immune response. But while mRNA vaccines can be developed quickly, they are difficult to produce or distribute on a large scale compared to older types of vaccines.

“If we only used mRNA technology, we would never be able to vaccinate the world,” Bottazzi said.

President Donald Trump in "Warp Speed ​​Vaccine Summit Action" Inside the White House Building in Washington.Former President Donald Trump launched Operation Warp Speed ​​in 2020 to provide U.S. drugmakers with government support to rapidly produce vaccines based on mRNA technology [File: Evan Vucci/AP Photo]

However, despite the risk of new variants emerging among the large unvaccinated population in the global South, Bottazzi and Hotez said they could not attract any interest from the White House in their project.

“Nobody in the US government cares, and nobody really cares,” Hotez told Al Jazeera. A White House spokesman did not immediately respond to Al Jazeera’s request for comment.

Instead, Bottazzi and Hotez turned to nonprofits and charities, including the Kleberg Foundation, Dunn Foundation and JPB Foundation, among others.

They cobbled together $7 million to fund the venture and have now licensed the vaccine “without any patents or strings attached” to pharmaceutical companies in India, Bangladesh and Indonesia.

“This concept, some call it Southern ownership, some call decolonization,” Hotez said. “In other words, we’re not going to call the shots on other countries right now. They’re going to have this.”

building capacity

The Indian government estimates Corbevax’s average cost in India is expected to be $2 per dose, and its expected efficacy in preventing serious disease is about 90 percent, according to preliminary data from Indian pharmaceutical company Biological E.

In Africa, many countries have less than 10 percent of their populations fully vaccinated, a key indicator tracked by the World Health Organization.Nigeria, with a population of about 212 million, is fully vaccinated less than 2.5% its population.

A woman receives a coronavirus vaccine in Abuja, Nigeria,A woman receives a coronavirus vaccination in Abuja, Nigeria, November 2021 [Gbemiga Olamikan/AP Photo]

Meanwhile, the US has vaccinated 63% of its population, and the benchmark in Western Europe is even better. Significant regions in Asia, South America and the Middle East have yet to catch up. The full vaccination rate is 15% in Iraq, 5% in Syria and 1% in Yemen.

“There is a huge shortage of vaccine capacity [in developing nations],” Prashant Yadav, senior researcher at the Center for Global Development, told Al Jazeera. “We need more supplies this year. “

U.S. government has pledged to donate over a billion By the end of 2022, the dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, President Joe Biden has boasted that the U.S. is donating more doses than any other country. So far, 370 million doses of the vaccine have been shipped, but “that’s still a drop in the bucket,” Gostin said.

The introduction of the cheaper, easier-to-produce Corbevax could eventually dwarf those numbers, Hotez noted: “[We’re on track to meet or exceed] The entire U.S. government output of global vaccines. “