The coronavirus vaccine in development by British drugmaker AstraZeneca officially entered Phase 3 trials in the United States on Monday. This is the third potential COVID-19 vaccine to reach this stage in the U.S. Like the other contenders from Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTec, the AstraZeneca vaccine is projected to be available by the end of the year if all goes well.
AstraZeneca's attempt at a novel coronavirus vaccine has been created in parternship with Oxford University in the U.K., and now has an injection of funding from the U.S. government as well. The company announced its Phase 3 trials on Monday in an enthusiastic statement published by CNN. The company noted that it is "recruiting up to 30,000 adults aged 18 years or over from diverse racial, ethnic and geographic groups who are healthy or have stable underlying medical conditions, including those living with HIV, and who are at increased risk of infection from the SARS-CoV-2 virus."
The 30,000 participants in the U.S make up a huge portion of the planned 50,000 participants in these tests worldwide. Phase 3 trials for this vaccine are reportedly already underway in the U.K., Brazil and parts of South Africa. More are planned for Japan and Russia as well. Participants in these trials receive two doses spaced four weeks apart, with some getting a placebo.
The U.S. trials are getting funding from both the Biomedical Advanced Development Authority and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. The National Institute of Health director, Dr. Francis Collins, issued a statement on the Phase 3 trials as well.
"NIH is committed to supporting several Phase 3 vaccine trials to increase the odds that one or more will be effective in preventing COVID-19 and put us on the road to recovery from this devastating pandemic," Dr. Collins said. "We also know that preventing this disease could require multiple vaccines and we're investing in those that we believe have the greatest potential for success."
As promising developments like this roll in, the World Health Organization reiterated its warning against rushing vaccine development again on Monday. The organization particularly warned governments about being too quick to hand out emergency use authorizations and other fast-track options. This comes after both China and Russia suggested that they would start disbursing vaccines before completing late-stage clinical trials. FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn also hinted that the U.S. might minimize the amount of data needed to push a vaccine through.
However, AstraZeneca said in its statement that the company is dedicated to safety and scientific procedure, and it will follow global regulations rather than accepting emergency authorization from companies. All three companies working on Phase 3 trials in the U.S. are still looking for volunteers.