Ask Dr. Nandi: 3rd major COVID-19 vaccine shown to be effective and cheaper

Posted at 7:27 PM, Nov 23, 2020

Another COVID-19 vaccine candidate is showing promising results. AstraZeneca is the third company to report a vaccine with a high efficacy rate.

The British pharmaceutical company says its coronavirus vaccine - developed by England’s Oxford University - was up to 90% effective.

I’m glad AstraZeneca decided to test two different regimens since one did way better than the other. Let me break them down for you.

Both of the regimens had two doses. One approach was to give two full doses of the vaccine, each shot was a month apart. And that regimen was found to be only 62% effective.

The other approach was to give a half-dose of the vaccine first, then a full dose a month later. And that regimen was much more successful, found to be up to 90% effective in preventing COVID-19 disease.

Both Moderna and Pfizer have efficacy rates that are slightly higher, near 95% compared to AstraZeneca’s 90%.

Both Moderna and Pfizer use mRNA technology, which is completely new. While AstraZeneca’s vaccine is made from a genetically engineered virus that causes the common cold in chimpanzees – which by the way, doesn’t affect humans. All three vaccines target the spike protein that the virus uses to enter human cells.

Now, the main difference between these vaccines is temperature. I’ve talked before how Moderna and Pfizer’s vaccines need to be kept cold. With Pfizer’s needing to be kept ultra-cold at minus 94 Fahrenheit.

Meanwhile, here’s AstraZeneca’s vaccine that only needs to be refrigerated at normal immunization temperatures. So it’ll be easier to distribute this vaccine anywhere around the world.

AstraZeneca has said that they won’t make a profit during the pandemic. Their cost per dose is estimated to be $2.50. Whereas Pfizer’s cost is estimated to be $20 per dose and Moderna’s is estimated to be between $15 and $20 per dose.

But having said all of that, I have to stress, that these vaccines are not in competition. We have over 7.5 billion people on this earth. So we need multiple vaccines to rein in this virus that has killed over 1.3 million people globally.

Question: Changing topics slightly, the FDA issued an emergency use authorization for Regeneron's antibody cocktail. Are you excited about this – what can you tell us?

This is fantastic news. The antibody cocktail is the same one our President was given when he was infected with the virus. And it’s shown to reduce hospitalizations and emergency room visits.

The treatment needs to be administered soon after a person is infected. It's not to be used in patients who are hospitalized or those who need extra oxygen.

Now, it can be used in patients 12 and older, however, the FDA has limited the treatment to high-risk folks only. That means folks who are 65 and older, and people with underlying health conditions like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or chronic kidney disease.

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