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PDA Pandemic Series Update – 17 July 2020

With each edition, we will aim to bring to your attention important issues either those that we are working on or general background information that helps you with your practice.

Fri 17th July 2020 The PDA

The global COVID-19 pandemic has led to a global effort to develop a vaccine. It is thought that a global vaccination programme is the most suitable way to provided protection from this novel Coronavirus.

In contrast to the sequential steps that vaccine development work involves, many steps are being integrated and fast-tracked to speed up development. Billions of vaccine batches are undergoing preparation worldwide, even though the results of the trials are unknown. This unique situation is essentially being underwritten by advance orders that Governments have placed.

The UK Government recognised that any money provided to fund vaccine and other research into COVID-19 would have an enormous payback value. In May 2020, The Government announced a £388m programme of measures to fund various projects. Of this, £84 million was provided to the University of Oxford and Imperial College, London, to aid their unprecedented work on the fast track development of a vaccine for COVID-19.

As part of this funding deal, the UK hopes to receive the first batch of vaccine (30 million doses) in early autumn with a total agreement for the delivery of 100 million doses. The funding for vaccine development is small when compared against the impact on the UK economy where the economic impact is estimated to run into hundreds of billions of pounds.

A similar scale of development is being funded in the USA where the USA is funding a variety of vaccine development programmes. The programme named Operation Warp Speed has been funded by Congress to the value of $10 billion.

Like the UK,  the USA has secured access to 300 million doses of vaccine from the AstraZeneca/Oxford University trial and these are expected for October 2020 delivery (again assuming safe passage through ongoing phase 3 trials).

Similarly, the EU has secured 400 million doses for its citizens. This is part of the Euro 2.7 billion programme which is being primarily utilised for advance purchase agreements which effectively underwrites the developmental costs for the vaccine.

However, to ensure equitable access for poorer and middle-income countries, the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Global Vaccine Alliance (GAVI) and Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) have joined forces to ensure that 1 billion doses for poor and middle-income countries are made available.

You can read more about the UK, USA, and other programmes here:

The science behind the vaccines

The underlying science being applied to this fast track vaccination development has led to a whole variety of platforms being tested. This multiplicity of parallel development may result in discovering that one or more vaccines are effective.

You can find a short summary of the science underpinning the current developments below.


The vaccines that are in advanced phase ii/iii trials

With over 200 vaccines in the development phase, there are just 3 which are in the lead to be ready for use in 2020. Of these the Oxford University vaccine licensed to AstraZeneca seems to be the one most likely to be ready first in the early part of autumn 2020. This is of course predicated on safe and efficacious results from the phase 3 trials which are currently underway.

You can find a short summary of these 3 vaccines below.


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