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COVID-19 Vaccine Trials to Watch This Summer

Drugmakers Race for a Vaccine Amidst Fears of a Second Wave

Texas, Florida, Arizona, and California reported spikes in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations last week. Total cases in the US have now surpassed 2 million.

Last Thursday, due to these rising infection numbers, all three major indexes recorded their biggest one-day drop since March 16. Markets did recover on Friday, but fears of a second wave of coronavirus are mounting—and these worries are impacting industries across the board.

Luckily, hope for a vaccine is emerging. Starting this summer, Moderna (MRNA), AstraZeneca (AZN) and Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) will begin phase 3 trials for COVID-19 vaccines, funded by the Federal Government. If these trials are successful, the positive impact on public health and on the global economy could be enormous.

Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Johnson & Johnson Prepare for Trials

Moderna’s trial is up first, beginning in July. AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson are scheduled to begin trials in August and September, respectively. Scientists hope that the trials will yield helpful results within six to eight months of their start dates.

Each of the three COVID-19 vaccine trials will include about 30,000 subjects in over 50 locations, mostly in the US, but potentially in other countries as well. Some participants will be given a placebo shot, while others will be given the real vaccine. Researchers will then watch to see if people who received the vaccine contract COVID-19 at lower rates than people who were given the placebo. Though the trials will be conducted separately, the three companies will collaborate in some ways so they can compare their results more effectively. For example, the same independent group will be in charge of monitoring safety across all three trials.

The Next Challenge: Distributing Vaccines to the Public

While developing and testing a vaccine successfully is keeping drugmakers busy, the medical supplies industry is planning how it will come up with the massive quantity of needles, syringes, and glass vials that would be needed to distribute the vaccine.

It is estimated that in order to achieve “herd immunity,” about 70% of the US population would need to be immunized. In May, Rick Bright, former Director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, warned that the US’ Strategic National Stockpile only has 2% of the 650 million to 850 million needles and syringes it would need to immunize the population against COVID-19. The government has since pumped money to companies that make glass vials and other supplies. Last week, glass company Corning (GLW) received a contract for $204 million, and SiO2 Materials was given a $143 million contract. Both will produce supplies needed to distribute vaccines.

Heading into the summer, the stakes could hardly be higher for drugmakers, medical suppliers, and other industries involved in creating, testing, and distributing a COVID-19 vaccine. The trials being conducted in the coming months will hopefully be an important step towards recovering from the pandemic.

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