This week, pharmaceutical companies Moderna and Pfizer launched giant Phase III 30,000-subject trials for their COVID-19 vaccines. Both say that their vaccines may be available for general use by the end of the year.
The vaccines are based upon a relatively new practice in which synthetic molecules that mimic the coronavirus are injected into patients instead of the virus itself. In doing so, they teach the immune system to fend off the real thing, while being safe from potential side effects of having it introduced to the body.
Although faster than traditional production methods and thus easily scalable, as the practice is relatively new, it does not have an extensive track record for efficacy.
Nevertheless, announcements for the trials come as a part of the US government-funded COVID-19 Prevention Network that plans to roll out studies of leading vaccine candidates every month- each with 30,000 newly recruited volunteers. Aside from seeing if the vaccines work, researchers hope to verify each vaccine's safety profile and then compare results.
All of this means that large numbers of people will be required to partake in trials, which can often be problematic. Dr. Larry Corey, a virologist who helps oversee the study sites, has said, however, that over 150,000 Americans have already signaled interest in the treatment in online registries.
While Moderna has received almost $1 billion from the US government to help roll out its vaccine, Pfizer has agreed to sell enough vaccines for 50 million people in the US for around $2 billion should their vaccine work.
Pfizer has also said that it aims to have around 1.3 billion doses available by the end of 2021- enough to treat 650 million people at two doses each. Meanwhile, Moderna aims to manufacture between 500 million and 1 billion doses per year.