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Recap on the Vaccine Race

Over one year after the first SARS-CoV-2 vaccines entered Phase 1 trials, vaccination campaigns are rolling out around the world. What did we learn from this unique journey?


Image is courtesy of Unsplash.


On December 31, 2019, the first case of COVID-19 was identified in Wuhan, China, according to the World Health Organization. Since then, the world has changed in a way never seen before. Every country in the world has been affected by this global pandemic, from crippling lockdowns, exponential case numbers, and isolation from the rest of the world. The millions of cases and deaths worldwide have caused immeasurable losses, but even in the hard times, the world was able to persevere and create something incredible. In under one year, the first vaccine for this disease was researched, developed, manufactured, and administered. A process that would normally take 10-15 years, as explained by History of Vaccines, was sped up and successfully completed in less than 10% of that time. The COVID-19 vaccine race is proportionate to the space race in dollars invested and high stakes, and it still isn’t over. Many large companies like Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson have become household names as millions have received their first and second doses. But these companies are only the tip of the iceberg that is the vaccine race. This article explores the timeline of vaccine trials and approvals around the world with a focus on what went well and what went wrong in Canada.


Timeline of Vaccine Trials and Approvals Around The World


Let’s go back in time to July 2021. It has been six months since the first case of SARS-CoV-2 was identified and hundreds of vaccine companies around the world have been working around the clock to develop and test a vaccine that works. In July, many vaccine companies that we now are receiving vaccines from like Moderna and Pfizer are starting their Phase 3 trials: the last trials before they can apply for government emergency use approvals. The following timeline shows many of the major vaccine trials and approvals across the world since July 21, 2020. Funding, vaccine deals, and registration of trials were not included. All information from the timeline was reported by the New York Times with data from clinicaltrials.gov and other federal sources.


July 2020


  • Oxford University and CanSino move to Phase 3 Trials

  • Moderna is expected to start Phase 3 trials

  • Pfizer and BioNTech starts combined Phase 2/3 trial


August 2020


  • 🇨🇦 Calgary-based Providence Therapeutics has shown promising results from animal testing and is seeking funds from Canadian government

  • Russia approves Gamaleya Institute vaccine before Phase 3 trial beings

  • California-based Arcturus Therapeutics starts Phase 1/2 trials

  • AstraZeneca and Oxford University start Phase 3 trials

  • Cuba's Finlay Vaccine Institute starts Phase 1 trials

  • Taiwan-based Asimmune stars Phase 1 trials

  • China’s Sichuan University starts Phase 1 trials

  • Russia’s Gamaleya Institute starts Phase 3 trials of its already approved vaccine

  • China approves Sinovac’s vaccine for limited use


September 2020


  • Sanofi and GSK start Phase 1/2 trials

  • AstraZeneca halts global trials to investigate serious inflammatory syndrome in one volunteer

  • University of Hong Kong and Beijing Wantai Biological Pharmacy start Phase 1

  • AstraZeneca resume vaccine trials in the United Kingdom

  • Sinovac Biotech start Phase 1/2 trial on children

  • Johnson and Johnson start Phase 3 trials

  • Novavax starts Phase 3 trials

  • SpyBiotech starts Phase 1/2 trials

  • Vaxart starts Phase 1 trials

  • German Center for Infection Research starts Phase 1 trials

  • Thailand’s Chula Vaccine Research Center starts Phase 1


October 2020


  • AstraZeneca resume vaccine trials in Japan

  • Russia grants regulatory approval to EpiVacCorona vaccine before Phase 3 trials

  • ImmunityBio starts Phase 1 trials

  • Entos Pharmaceutical starts Phase 1 trials

  • India’s Bharat Biotech starts Phase 3 trials

  • Israel’s Institute for Biological Research starts Phase 1 trials

  • Cuba’s Finlay Vaccine Institute starts Phase 1 trials for their second vaccine


November 2020


  • 🇨🇦 Canada’s Symvivo starts Phase 1 trials

  • India’s Zydus Cadila starts testing DNA-based skin patch vaccine

  • Turkey’s Erciyes University starts Phase 1 trials

  • 💉 Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was over 90% effective in preliminary Phase 3 trials

  • 💉 Russian Direct Investment Fund announced their vaccine was 92% effective in preliminary Phase 3 trials

  • 💉 Moderna vaccine was 94.5% effective in preliminary Phase 3 trials

  • Inovio starts Phase 2 trials

  • 💉 Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is 95% generally effective and 84% among people over 65 with no serious side effects after Phase 3 trials

  • China’s Academy of Medical Science and Anhui Zhifei Longcom start Phase 3 trials

  • West China Hospital and Sichuan University start Phase 2 trials

  • 💉 AstraZeneva and Oxford vaccine was 90% effective depending on dosage in preliminary Phase 3 trials

  • 💉 Russian Direct Investment Fund revise their claim and confirm their vaccine is 90% effective

  • Italy’s ReiThera ends successful Phase 1 trials

  • California’s biomedical research institute City of Hope starts Phase 1 trials

  • Cuba’s Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology’s nasal spray and injection vaccine starts Phase 1 trials


December 2020


  • United Kingdom gives Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine emergency use authorization

  • South Korea’s SK Bioscience starts Phase 1 trials

  • Australia’s University of Queensland abandons vaccine after entering clinical trials

  • 💉 🇨🇦 Canada gives full approval to Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine

  • UAE gives full approval to Beijing Institute vaccine

  • The United States gives Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine emergency use authorization

  • Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences starts Phase 3 trials

  • India’s Gennova Biopharmaceuticals and Seattle’s HDT Bio start Phase 1/2 trials

  • Gamaleya Research Institute announces Sputnik V vaccine has 91.4% efficacy rate

  • CureVac starts Phase 3 trials

  • Japan’s Shionogi stars Phase 1/2 trials

  • South Korea's GeneOne starts Phase 1/2 trials

  • China’s Clover Biopharmaceuticals starts Phase 2/3 trials

  • Russia’s Vector Institute starts Phase 3 trials

  • France’s Valneva starts Phase 1/2 trials

  • Vietnam’s Nanogen Biopharmaceuticals starts Phase 1 trials

  • The United States gives Moderna vaccine emergency use authorization

  • Cuba’s Soberna 2 vaccine starts Phase 2 trials

  • The European Union gives Pfizer-BionTEch vaccine conditional approval

  • 💉 🇨🇦 Canada gives Moderna vaccine approval

  • Iran’s government vaccine starts Phase 1 trials

  • AstraZeneca and The Russian Gamaleya Institute start Phase 1 trials of their combination vaccine

  • Russia approves Sputnik V vaccine for people over 60

  • Kazakhstan’s government vaccine starts Phase 3 trials

  • Novavaz starts Phase 3 trials

  • 💉 China approves Sinopharm’s vaccine with 79.34% efficacy rate

  • United Kingdom gives Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine emergency use authorization

  • The World Health Organization gave Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine emergency validation


January 2021


  • India’s Zydus Cadila starts Phase 3 trials

  • India gives Oxford-AstraZeneca emergency use authorization

  • India gives Bharat Biotech emergency use authorization

  • Egypt approves Sinopharm’s vaccine for emergency use

  • Israel gives Moderna vaccine emergency use authorization

  • Taiwan’s Medigen starts Phase 2 trials

  • European Union gives Moderna vaccine conditional marketing authorization

  • Arcturus Therapeutics starts Phase 2 trials

  • 🇨🇦 Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization (VIDO) at the University of Saskatchewan start Phase 1/2 trials

  • 💉 Sinovac vaccine CoronaVac confirmed efficacy rate of just over 50%

  • ImmunityBio starts second Phase 1 trial in South Africa

  • Israel’s Institute for Biological Research starts Phase 2 trials

  • Turkmenistan registers Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine

  • Brazil gives Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine emergency use authorization

  • Turkey’s Erciyes University starts Phase 2 trials

  • Merck abandons vaccines developed with Themis and IAVI

  • Medigen and Dynavax start Phase 2 trials

  • 🇨🇦 Canada's Providence Therapeutics start Phase 1 trials

  • 💉 Novavax was 89.3% effective in United Kingdom trials and below 50% effective in South Africa trials

  • 💉 Johnson and Johnson was 72% effective in the United States, 66% in Latin America, and 57% in South Africa


February 2021


  • ImmunityBio starts Phase 1 trial of an oral version of the vaccine.

  • China’s Clover Biopharmaceuticals cancels Phase 2/3 trial with GSK adjuvant and will move forward with Dynavax adjuvant trials

  • 💉 Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine has a 91.6% efficacy rate

  • Cuba’s Abdala vaccine starts Phase 2 trials

  • Mexico gives Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine emergency use authorization

  • AstraZeneca vaccine is protective against the variant in Britain with 84% efficiency

  • South Africa stops plans for AstraZeneca vaccine rollout due to mutation prevalence

  • Iran's second vaccine starts Phase 1 trials

  • SK Bioscience starts Phase 1/2 trials

  • Takis Biotech and Rottapharm start Phase 1 trials

  • India’s Bharat Biotech’s nasal spray starts Phase 1 trials

  • China’s Shenzhen Kangtai starts Phase 2 trials

  • Russia approves Chumakov Center vaccine for early use

  • Sanofi starts Phase 2 trials for a stronger formulation of their vaccine

  • Thailand's Mahidol University starts Phase 1 trials

  • Brazil, Guyana, Egypt, Honduras and Guatemala approves Russia’s Sputnik Vaccine

  • Bahrain gives Johnson & Johnson shot emergency use authorization

  • China approves CanSino and Sinopharm vaccines for general use

  • 💉 🇨🇦 Canada grants Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine emergency use authorization

  • US grants Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine emergency use authorization


March 2021


  • VBI Vaccines starts Phase 1/2 trials.

  • Cuba’s Soberana 2 starts Phase 3 trials

  • 💉 🇨🇦 Canada authorizes Johnson & Johnson vaccine

  • Bavarian Nordic starts Phase 1/2 trials

  • China’s Academy of Military Medical Sciences starts Phase 2 trials

  • Nanogen Biopharmaceutica starts Phase 2 trials

  • European Union grants Johnson & Johnson conditional marketing authorization

  • Denmark, Iceland, and Norway pause Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine rollout due to concerns of blood clotting

  • 💉 Novavax vaccine 96% effective against original coronavirus and 86% against British variant

  • Sanofi and Translate Bio starts Phase 1/2 trials

  • China authorizes Anhui Zhifei Longcom and the Institute of Microbiology of Chinese Academy of Sciences' vaccine

  • Germany, France, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, and Ireland halt Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine rollout for concern about blood clotting

  • 🇨🇦 Canada’s Medicago and GSK start Phase 3 trials

  • Meissa Vaccines’ intranasal vaccine starts Phase 1 trials

  • Iran’s Ministry of Defence’s new vaccine starts Phase 1 trials

  • Brazil grants full approval to Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine

  • Cuba’s Abdala vaccine starts Phase 3 trials

  • 💉 AstraZeneca is 79% effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19 and 100% effective against critical disease

  • Daiichi Sankyo and the University of Tokyo start Phase 1/2 trials

  • China’s Zhongyianke Biotech's vaccine starts Phase 2 trials

  • 💉 AstraZeneca revises results, saying their vaccine is 76% at effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19

  • 🇨🇦 Health Canada updated the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine label to include side effects of very rare reports of blood clots

  • Turkey’s Middle East Technical and Bilkent University start Phase 1 trials

  • Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is highly effective in adolescents aged 12 to 15


April 2021


  • Walter Reed Army Institute of Research starts Phase 1 trials

  • Japan’s KM Biologics starts Phase 1/2 trials

  • Turkey’s Koçak Farma starts Phase 1 trials

  • Akston Biosciences's vaccine starts Phase 1/2 trials

  • Cuban Soberana Plus's vaccine for COVID-19 survivors starts Phase 2 trials

  • U.S. health agencies pause the use of Johnson & Johnson vaccine after six women developed a rare disorder involving blood clots

  • Denmark permanently stops use of AstraZeneca vaccine

  • Philippines give Johnson & Johnson emergency use authorization

  • Philippines give Bharat Biotech emergency use authorization

  • China’s Shenzhen Kangtai starts Phase 3 trials

  • Iran’s Shafa Pharmed Pars starts Phase 3 trials

  • France's Valneva starts Phase 3 trials

  • Iran’s Razi Vaccine and Serum Research Institute start Phase 2 trials

  • Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital start Phase 3 trials

  • China’s Sinopharm's third vaccine starts Phase 1/2 trials

  • The Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey starts Phase 1 trials


May 2021


  • Elixirgen Therapeutics starts Phase 1/2 trials

  • Denmark stops use of Johnson & Johnson vaccine

  • China’s Lanzhou Institute of Biological Products, Beijing Zhong Sheng Heng Yi Pharmaceutical Technology and Zhengzhou University start Phase 1/2 trials

  • Russia approves Gamaleya vaccine’s one-dose version “Sputnik Light” which has a reported 79.4% efficiency

  • The World Health Organization grants Sinopharm vaccine emergency use authorization

  • The United States authorizes Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children 12 to 15

  • 💉 🇨🇦 Canada approves Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children 12 and up

  • France’s OSE Immunotherapeutics starts Phase 1 trials

  • China gives Shenzhen Kangtai’s vaccine emergency use authorization

  • China's Stemirna Therapeutics starts Phase 1 trials

  • Pennsylvania-based VaxForm starts Phase 1 trials

  • France’s Sanofi starts Phase 3 trials


June 2021


  • The West China Hospital of Sichuan University starts Phase 3 trials

  • China’s Academy of Military Medical Sciences starts Phase 3 trials

  • The Republic of the Congo, Belarus, Mauritius, Nicaragua, Palestine, and Venezuela approve the Russian one-dose "Sputnik Light" vaccine

  • America's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases start a booster shot trial of Moderna, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines

  • University of Washington and Icosavax starts Phase 1/2 trials

  • Australia’s Vaccine starts Phase 2 trials

  • 💉 Novavax vaccine’s Phase 3 trials show it has 90.4% efficacy

  • Iran gives Shafa Pharmed Pars vaccine emergency use authorization

  • Vietnam’s Nanogen starts Phase 3 trials

  • 💉 CureVac has 47% efficiency rate at the recent trial

  • Kazakhstan’s second vaccine starts Phase 1/2 trials

  • 💉 Cuba's Abdala vaccine has a reported efficacy rate of 92%

  • Turkey’s Erciyes University's vaccine starts Phase 3 trials

  • Iran’s Ministry of Defence's vaccine Fakhravac starts Phase 2 trials

  • Altimmune abandons Phase 1 trial of their nasal spray vaccine

  • Iran gives Cuba’s Soberana 2 vaccine emergency use authorization

  • Iran’s Baqiyatallah University of Medical Sciences starts Phase 1 trials


July 2021


  • Zydus Cadila’s vaccine has 66.6% efficacy.

  • Johnson & Johnson announced their vaccine provides durable protection against the Delta variant

  • Bharat Biotech’s vaccine has 77.8% efficacy against symptomatic COVID-19, 93.4% against severe COVID-19, 63.6% against asymptomatic COVID-19, and 65.2% against the Delta variant

  • Tetherex Pharmaceuticals starts Phase 1 trials

  • Thailand’s Baiya Phytopharm starts Phase 1 trials

  • Cuba authorizes the Abdala vaccine for emergency use

  • CyanVac starts Phase 1 trials


Focus on Canada: Successes and Failures


Domestic production


The transmissibility of the coronavirus wasn’t the only reason countries hunkered down and slowed international trade. Many countries realized that although a vaccine would benefit us all, it would benefit those who could make one domestically first. Canada’s neighbour, the United States, has some of the best R&D facilities and manufacturing plants in the world so it's no surprise they were able to pull off their ambitious mass vaccination campaign ahead of the deadline, as written by Bloomberg vaccine tracker. Canada, on the other hand, was not as successful. A CBC article explained that at the start of the pandemic, we didn’t have a manufacturing facility that could be used to produce the viral vector or mRNA products needed for COVID-19 vaccines. We were completely reliant on imported supplies that were at times not able to meet domestic demand. Having a domestic production supply would have put Canada on the same level as the USA and the UK on rollout capabilities. In hindsight, the government is acting to prevent this from happening again with a $415 million dollar Sanofi vaccine production facility in Toronto, according to Global News. The facility will be completed by 2027 and will mainly create flu shots, but the effort is a little late.


AstraZeneca


CBC News explains that in late February, Health Canada approved the AstraZeneca vaccine for adults 18+ saying it provided a 62% protection against COVID-19. At the time, they said there were no serious health concerns and although the efficacy was less than Pfizer and Moderna, it was good enough to protect Canadians. Later, after seeing cases of rare-blood clotting due to the vaccine, the Government of Canada issued a label change to the vaccine to add the rare side effect “may cause blood clots”. However, CBC News also wrote that in March, Quebec, Ontario, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island stopped the use of the vaccine, for anyone under 55, claiming the risk of blood clots outweighed the protection provided for the age group. Later in May, Ontario and Alberta stopped giving out the AstraZeneca vaccine altogether, according to Reuters. Currently, there is still mixed delivery of this vaccine across the provinces and the health risks and benefits have not been properly communicated.


Approval for youth aged 12-15


On May 5, 2021, Health Canada approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children ages 12-15. On December 9, 2020, the vaccine had been approved for those 16 and up. Making sure children are vaccinated is crucial to the reopening of schools and daycares. As we move towards a return to normal, this is a first two to full population vaccination.


Final Message


As we reach the “light at the end of the tunnel,” we can look back at the progress, mistakes, and successes accomplished over the last year and critique it all we like. However, after being faced with a pandemic of proportions never before seen in human history, there is no doubt that we have done many great things. The world saw revolutionary scientific breakthroughs that will hopefully protect us if any similar threat were to rise again.



Article Author: Ria Patel

Article Editors: Victoria Huang, Valerie Shirobokov