On Tuesday (8 Dec), Britain became the first Western country to begin a mass effort to vaccinate its citizens against the coronavirus. This came after Britain granted an emergency authorization for use of a vaccine made by U.S. pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and German biotech firm BioNTech.
China and Russia have been marketing vaccines of their own around the world, but they have not been subject to the rigorous standard of testing that many governments require.
A Singaporean doctor, Dr Martin Tan, was among the first few to be vaccinated in Britain. He received the first of his two vaccine jabs yesterday (9 Dec). Dr Tan is currently a house officer doing his rotation in respiratory medicine at the Royal Free Hospital in London since August.
“I work with Covid-19 patients every day, so it is a balance of risk and benefit. And I accept the risks, given the benefits of the vaccine,” Dr Tan said. “The risks of getting Covid-19 and complications from it are significantly higher than those from the vaccine, based on the data produced.”
More work needed on AstraZeneca and Oxford vaccine
At the same time, Reuters reported yesterday that AstraZeneca and Oxford University have more work to do to confirm if their COVID-19 vaccine can be 90% effective. This is according to peer-reviewed data published in the prestigious medical journal, The Lancet, on Tuesday.
Detailed results from the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine trials have been inconsistent. In one study, the efficacy was 62% for trial participants given two full doses, but 90% for a smaller sub-group given a half, then a full dose in another study.
When asked whether the half, then full dose regimen had been a mistake, Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group and chief investigator into the trials, told a news conference it had been “unplanned.”
He conceded that the different results from the two dosage regimens complicated matters in seeking approvals for their vaccine.
EDB pumps in US$220m in support of vaccine developed by Arcturus and Duke-NUS Medical School
Meanwhile, EDB has backed a coronavirus vaccine being co-developed by US-based Arcturus Therapeutics and Singapore Duke-NUS Medical School.
Arcturus received manufacturing financial support and potential vaccine purchases of up to US$220 million from EDB. Both Arcturus and EDB have agreed to terms providing the EDB with the right to purchase up to US$175 million of the vaccine, named Lunar-Cov19, at pre-negotiated prices with shipments expected to begin in the first quarter of 2021.
Preliminary results were said to be positive. The final phase 3 trial for Lunar-Cov19 is likely to start in Singapore before the end of the year.
Associate Professor Jenny Low, deputy clinical and scientific director at the SingHealth Investigational Medicine Unit, which is administering the trial, told the media last month, “Phase three will begin, hopefully, by the end of next month (Dec).”
Professor Ooi Eng Eong of the Duke-NUS Medical School, who participated in the development, added, “I am confident the (Lunar-Cov19) vaccine will work.”