A virus derived from the chimpanzee could be the key to the success of the potential vaccine against the coronavirus developed by the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca and whose arrival in Latin America will be borne by Argentina and Mexico.
The Anglo-Swedish company’s vaccine, developed by the University of Oxford, is one of several participating in a race against time to end the pandemic, but it is part of the privileged group that is in phase 3 of clinical trials in humans.
Argentina and Mexico announced this week an agreement with AstraZeneca to produce and distribute the vaccine in Latin America at an affordable price starting in the first half of 2021. 250 million doses are projected at a price of three or four dollars each.
In the South American country, the local mABxience laboratory will be responsible for producing the raw material for the potential vaccine based on the protocols sent by AstraZeneca.
One of its main components is a chimpanzee-derived adenovirus that is modified to provide the genetic information for the coronavirus protein.
“It is like a Trojan horse when it enters organisms. It cannot multiply but it carries a coronavirus protein on its surface ”, explained Esteban Corley, virologist and director of mABxience Argentina. “With the vaccine I intend that my body generates antibodies and in a context in which nothing happens to me, at most low-grade fever or pain in the applied area. It will show my immune system this protein and it will mount a response. It neutralizes it and may not cause us harm ”.
The components of the vaccine will be placed in sterile drums of between 20 and 25 liters, they will be frozen and they will be transported to Mexico by plane. “It is a normal way of moving bio-drugs to the world,” explained the Argentine virologist. In Mexico it will be divided into doses and from there it will be distributed to the rest of the countries.
Each government will have to negotiate the purchase of doses with AstraZeneca, which has expressed its vocation to put them on the market at a lower cost than other competitors.
The first stage of vaccine production in Latin America will be financed by the foundation of Mexican magnate Carlos Slim. The figure for the agreement was not released.
“Phase 3 is going to end in October. This is done at risk, if the clinical test has bad results, it is thrown away ”, stated Lucas Filgueira Risso, operations manager of mABxience during a tour of the laboratory.
So-called phase 3 trials, like those for the AstraZeneca vaccine, typically last for months and involve thousands of people, the only way to show if an experimental vaccine is safe and if it really works.
AstraZeneca closed a series of similar agreements around the world to distribute the experimental vaccine against COVID-19.
Its partnerships include the United States, Great Britain, and the European Union, as well as the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations – a public-private coalition based in Norway – and the GAVI Vaccine Alliance, a public-private partnership. established in Geneva.
The World Health Organization said that all potential vaccines must complete trial phases before being distributed. Experts have warned that failure to adhere to protocols can negatively impact health and create a false sense of security or undermine confidence in vaccines.
If the vaccine is successful, it is estimated that scale tests will begin in November, then the validation of vaccine batches and “from January and February the first batches will begin to be produced that will be sent to Mexico,” said Risso.
Trial times for the coronavirus cure were drastically shortened compared to other vaccines. This has generated fears for its collateral effects and has given arguments to anti-vaccine groups.
“Most of the vaccines (under experimentation) have complied with protocols … we know their data and they have had an analysis and they have released phase 1 and 2 data that would be safe. I have no doubt that I would be vaccinated because I believe that the two previous steps have been well complied with ”, stated the Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation of the Nation, Roberto Salvarrezza. “I believe there are no risks, the anti-vaccine positions are based on convictions not based on science.”
The governments of Mexico and Argentina announced that the application of the vaccine to their respective populations will be free.
AP videojournalist Yesica Brumec contributed to this report.