Argentina could become the second Latin American country, after Cuba, to develop its own COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccine is aimed at being a one shot only jab and is being developed by a government research institute in partnership with private biotech firm Vaxinz.
The vaccine is still in early stages of development, but pre-clinical trials on animals show that it generates “a strong immune response”. It’s based on hybrid adenoviral vectors, similar to the Sputnik, Johnson & Johnson and CanSino vaccines. However, its developers claim it’s a ‘second generation’ vaccine because it’s being developed later than the earlier wave and therefore takes into account the newer coronavirus variants and develops cellular immunity, as well as antibodies, which will make the vaccine effective for longer than the other jabs.
Osvaldo Podhajcer, a researcher at the government’s National Council for Scientific and Technical Research (CONICET), the state agency which is developing the drug, described the aims that the team set out with when embarking on this project;
“In March 2020 we began to design the project and in May we began to work on a sustained basis. From that moment, we already knew that it had to be a single-dose vaccine with long-term immunity. In November, with the emergence of new variants, we decided that our option would also be able to demonstrate efficacy against all those with community transmission in the region… It is a technology designed for Latin America, as well as for other continents that are suffering from inequity in terms of access [to vaccines]. It responds to the needs of our developing countries: the idea is that it is easily administered through a single dose, so as to reduce mass production by half and to ensure that it can be stored anywhere without too many requirements.”
Human trials will begin in the next few months with the hope that it will be ready for general use in 2022. If successful, Argentina will become the second Latin American country to develop its own COVID-19 vaccine. The first was Cuba, where two candidates, Soberana 02 and Abdala, have reached the final phase, phase 3 clinical trials, and is already being used on a mass scale throughout the island. Just over 1 million Cubans have already received at least one dose from one of the two vaccines. 615,016 people have received two doses.
Early results for Cuba’s vaccines are positive, with a reduction in new infections at a time when the rest of the region is experiencing record breaking rises. The Governor of Havana Province, Reinaldo Garcia Zapata, said on Tuesday, that “The tendency of the last 15 days has been a reduction. Despite the high number of cases, we’ve managed to reduce the rate of infection from 4.46 to 3.96; 1,076 fewer cases compared to 15 days before. In one week we’ve reduced the number of active cases by 800, that has to become the tendency.”