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Health

Antibodies and attack on infection, keys to the COVID-19 vaccine

Miami / An “effective vaccine” to stop the COVID-19 pandemic should attack the virus with antibodies, but also stop the infection, Argentinean Alejandro Cané, an infectious disease expert at Pfizer, a pharmacist who hopes to have it ready by the end of April 2020, told EFE. 

The director of Vaccines for Pfizer for North America, the company that announced an agreement with the United States on Wednesday to produce 100 million doses by the end of this year for nearly $ 2 billion, said the “profile” of the vaccine against the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus must have both components.

“This virus needs a response from a vaccine that generates antibodies that block the activity of the virus, but also a response from cells that control the infection, it needs both responses, humoral and cellular,” emphasized the doctor.

He said that the US pharmaceutical company along with the German company BioNTech are planning to start the third phase of development of the vaccine for “late July or early August”, which foresees its experimental use in 30,000 people between 18 and 85 years of age in Argentina , Brazil and the United States.

Although the vaccine, known as BNT162, is already in mass production, that third stage is still pending and approval by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which they hope to deliver in October, as explained by the specialist in pediatric infectious diseases.

He assured that the FDA has prioritized this vaccine for an “accelerated evaluation” based on the satisfactory results of the first phase of clinical development, which is “hopeful to be able to have a vaccine before the end of the year, so that it can be used ”.

For the scientist, an effective and safe vaccine is one that does not cause harm to the people who receive it, is capable of preventing COVID-19, but also that has “the capacity to produce a large number of doses in a short period of time. weather”.

Realistic number of vaccines

Cané said that for a few weeks the company started the production of BNT162 and that it expects to have 100 million doses by the end of the year and by the end of 2021 about 1.3 billion “globally”.

On whether 100 million will be enough to attack the pandemic in the United States, where so far there have been close to 4 million cases and more than 142,200 deaths, the expert said it is a “realistic” number.

“There is no current vaccine producer that can assure that in the next two, three or six months it will be able to produce 7 or 7.5 billion (7.5 billion) doses of the world population that can be vaccinated,” he said.

He pointed out that the task that is coming to governments and health organizations is to give priority to the most infected countries and the most vulnerable people because supply “is going to be a limitation in all the countries of the world.”

Winter or summer?

The Argentine stressed that in the first seven months of the pandemic, “they have learned a lot” from the dynamics of the disease and how the virus behaves at different ages, which affects older people the most.

However, he added that there are also “a lot of answers that do not yet exist” that depend on monitoring the future of the sick and the vaccinated.

In this sense, he specified that the immunity of those who have suffered from it is unknown, and it is also unknown whether, for example, a third dose of the vaccine will be necessary.

He explained that that of Pfizer and BioNTech is designed for two doses, the second 21 days after the application of the first.

“We cannot answer that now because we are simply just beginning the vaccination phase in clinical trials,” added Cané, chief of scientific and medical affairs for North America in Pfizer’s vaccine division.

On the other hand, he stressed that more time is required to know the long-term effects of the disease and to be certain of its seasonality, that is, whether it circulates more in the winter or in the summer.

He explained that they have detected “disparate behavior, different in the autumn to spring of the northern hemisphere and autumn winter of the southern hemisphere.”

But that something more concrete is required to be able to say in which station it circulates the most, because until now “it has not behaved as influenza, influenza does, we need more time to give that response.”

What is clear, he noted, is the urgency of the vaccine to control the pandemic because until now the “only form of prevention” is the advice repeated to exhaustion by governments and experts.

“We have all learned that social distance, the use of a mask, current and repeated hand washing are the only effective measures for prevention for now,” he recalled.

“No country in the world was prepared to face a situation like the one that covid-19 exposed us as a disease,” said the expert.

The President of the United States, Donald Trump, warned on Tuesday that the coronavirus pandemic “will worsen” in the country and insisted on the use of masks by the citizens, which he had previously resisted. (July 23, 2020, EFE / PracticaEspañol)

(Automatic translation)

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