India has just become the first nation to authorize a new COVID-19 vaccine called Corbevax, which is being called “the world’s COVID-19 vaccine” due to its low cost and ease of production.
“If you’re talking about a serious effort to vaccinate the world and prevent new variants from emerging, we think we’re now going to make a very important contribution to this,” Peter Hotez, who co-developed the shot at Texas Children’s Hospital, told CBS Austin.
Why it matters: More than 70% of all COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in high or upper-middle income countries, and less than 1% have gone to people in very low-income nations.
It’s important for the world to increase the rate of vaccination not only to protect people in these nations, but also to help bring the pandemic to an end — as long as the virus has people to infect, it’ll have more opportunities to mutate into strains that evade prior immunity.
The challenge: While the U.S. and other wealthy nations can afford to buy highly effective vaccines for their citizens from pharma companies like Pfizer and Moderna at $15+ per dose, low income nations can’t.
That leaves them relying on donations or poorly functioning aid schemes, and even when they can get mRNA shots for free, they often lack the facilities and infrastructure needed to distribute them to rural communities at ultra low-temperatures.
The idea: Corbevax has the potential to increase vaccination rates in those nations as it can be simply and cheaply manufactured at large scales in low-income countries themselves, and then stored and distributed at higher temperatures than mRNA vaccines.
India has now issued Biological E., a local manufacturer, an emergency authorization to begin producing the new COVID-19 vaccine — but rather than selling a license for Corbevax, the Texas researchers have given it away at no cost.
“This is a gift from Texas to the world.”Maria Elena Bottazzi
India won’t be the last to take advantage, either — the inventors have already freely licensed the new COVID-19 vaccine to companies in Indonesia, Bangladesh, and Botswana, too, and plan to continue sharing it with nations in need at no cost.
“This is a gift from Texas to the world,” co-developer Maria Elena Bottazzi told the Houston Chronicle.
The big picture: During phase 3 trials involving more than 3,000 people, a two-dose regimen of Corbevax proved to be more than 90% effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19 from the original coronavirus strain and about 80% effective against Delta, according to a press release.
The data from those trials hasn’t been publicly released, though, and we still don’t know how effective the new COVID-19 vaccine might be against the omicron variant.
Still, with so many people in lower income nations completely unvaccinated, if the shot can provide any level of protection against COVID-19, it could cut down on the number and length of infections, hopefully boxing in the virus’s ability to mutate.
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