Russia plans mass vaccination against COVID-19 in October

Russia is likely to be the first country to start vaccination against COVID-19. The country’s health authorities are preparing to start a mass vaccination campaign against the novel coronavirus in October, Russian media said quoting health minister Mikhail Murashko. Doctors and teachers would be vaccinated first, the reports added. Also Read – COVID-19 Live Updates: Cases in India surge to 17,50,723 as death toll reaches 37,364

According to Murashko, Gamaleya Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology, a state research facility in Moscow, had completed clinical trials of a COVID-19 vaccine and paperwork is being prepared to register it. It is expected to be approved by regulators this month. Also Read – Union home minister Amit Shah tests positive for COVID-19

The early-stage trials of the adenovirus-based vaccine had been completed last month, with Russian scientists claiming the results to be a success. Also Read – How to nurture friendships amidst social distancing

The Russian health ministry is also expecting at least two more requests for clinical trials in the coming two months, the country’s local news agencies reported said citing Murashko.

J&J vaccine successfully tested in monkeys

Another company making promising strides in the COVID-19 vaccine race is global healthcare company Johnson & Johnson. The drugmaker on Thursday kicked off human trials of its experimental COVID-19 vaccine after the shots already proved successful in protecting monkeys against the virus.

Adult rhesus macaques (monkeys) who received the single-dose shot of the vaccine candidate developed neutralizing antibodies against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19 – according to a news agency report.

None of the six animals that received the vaccine candidate showed the virus in their lungs. But the researchers found low levels of virus in nasal swabs of one animal. The study results were published in the journal Nature.

Vaccine developed from common cold virus

The vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson uses a common cold virus, called adenovirus serotype 26 (Ad26). It works by delivering the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein into host cells, where it stimulates the body to raise immune responses against the novel coronavirus.

As per the news agency report, J&J research team started working on the development of a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as Chinese scientists released the SARS-CoV-2 genome in January. They designed a series of vaccine candidates that can express different variants of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, which is the main target for neutralizing antibodies.

In a study, 32 adult rhesus macaques (monkeys) were immunized with a single dose of one of seven different versions of the Ad26-based vaccine. Five out of six primates who got the optimal vaccine candidate, Ad26.COV2.S, were protected from infection when exposed to the coronavirus. No traces of the virus were found in their lungs as well as nasal swabs.

In other cases, researchers found a second shot significantly increases protection from COVID-19 infection.

J&J to immunize more than 1,000 healthy adults

Dr. Paul Stoffels, J&J’s chief scientific officer, told Reuters that they will now test its vaccine candidate on more than 1,000 healthy adults, including people over the age of 65, in early-stage human trials in the United States and Belgium.

Including Johnson & Johnson vaccine, more than 30 COVID-19 vaccines are under human trials worldwide, according to a media report.

The US government is reportedly investing $456 million into J&J’s vaccine development as part of an effort to speed up the production of a vaccine for COVID-19.

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