Kazakhstan’s Begins COVID-19 Vaccine Trials
The Kazakh Research Institute for Biological Safety recently announced it would, in September, begin human trials of a COVID-19 vaccine it had developed. Forty-four volunteers will participate in the first preclinical trial of testing, expected to be completed by August 20. The results will be submitted to the Kazakh Healthcare Ministry. The second phase of trials, involving 200 volunteers, will begin in October and last through December. The World Health Organization (WHO) included the vaccine’s official name – QazCovid – in a list published on July 31 of 139 candidate vaccines in preclinical evaluation. The list also included 26 candidate vaccines currently undergoing clinical evaluation.
The Kazakh Research Institute, which is part of the Science Committee of the Ministry of Education and Science, allowed seven of its researchers to test the vaccine on themselves. This authorization was to ensure the safety of the main researchers involved in the creation and trials of the vaccine. The Institute reported that the vaccine allowed the first and second phases of clinical trials to be replicated by the researchers who have now fully recovered without fevers or allergies. According to the Institute, if the WHO confirms the clinical trials of QazCovid, Kazakhstan will manufacture the vaccine at a plant planned to be completed by December 2020 with a projected capacity of 60 million doses a year. Should QazCovid prove effective, Kazakhstan will be able to provide the vaccine to the entirety of Central Asia.
Kazakhstan is not the only country racing to develop a COVID-19 vaccine. The Russian government plans to allow conditional registration later this week for a vaccine developed by the Gamaleya Institute along with the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF). While the conditional registration would lead to civilian use, fewer than 100 people have received the vaccine. The Health Ministry said that mass vaccinations could start as early as October. According to the head of the RDIF Kirill Dmitriev, Russia could produce 30 million doses of vaccine domestically in 2020, and 170 million for use abroad. Dmitriev said that Russia had signed a deal with the British-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca Plc to manufacture an Oxford University-developed vaccine at R-Pharm, one of the major Russian pharmaceutical companies. AstraZeneca stated that Russia will become one of its production hubs to supply the vaccine to over 30 countries, including Commonwealth of Independent States members, the Middle East, and the Balkans.
China has also been racing to develop a COVID-19 vaccine. Saudi Arabia will soon begin phase 3 clinical trials on about 5,000 people for a vaccine developed by Chinese company CanSino Biologics Inc. Although CanSino’s proposed vaccine became the first to begin human testing in March, other Chinese companies like Sinovac Biotech and Sinopharm, a unit of China National Pharmaceutical Group, have also been approved for trials overseas. AstraZeneca has also made a deal to allow Chinese company Shenzhen Kangtai Biological Products Co. to produce its vaccine, if AstraZeneca’s vaccine is approved by Chinese regulations. According to statements by both companies, Shenzhen Kangtai Biological Products could produce at least 100 million doses by the end of 2020 and at least 200 million by the end of 2021.
Many countries and pharmaceutical companies are competing to develop the first successful vaccine. The United States, the UK, and Canada accused Russia of attempting cyber attacks against organizations related to vaccine development. The U.S. government also accused China of sponsoring hackers attempting to hack biotech companies working on vaccine development.
The first country to create a successful vaccine will be praised on the world stage, boosting that country’s image. With many countries in preclinical or actual clinical trials of a vaccine, many countries, Kazakhstan among them, have the chance to alleviate the human and economic strain of the pandemic while also boosting their country’s image in the world.