Patent-free, low-cost vaccines highly protective against severe COVID

Research shows potential for $1 COVID vaccines mass-produced for worldwide use


A new analysis of 390,459 participants assessing 14 different COVID-19 vaccines has identified no significant difference in efficacy against both symptomatic and severe COVID-19 infections between five vaccines that are approved in the US and/or the EU, and nine vaccines that have not been approved in these countries. These patent-free vaccines could lower costs of worldwide COVID-19 vaccination campaigns significantly, leading the way to wider vaccine access, which could save millions of lives.

Covid-19 Coronavirus Vaccine vials in a row macro close up

Five vaccines – from Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, Oxford/AstraZeneca, Janssen, and Novavax – are currently approved/authorised in the US and/or the EU. Global sales of these vaccines have reached US $100 billion. Many other vaccines have been developed and used in low-and-middle income countries, but are yet not authorised in high-income countries. Almost 20 million lives have been saved by vaccination, but millions of people have died unvaccinated.

Only 17% of people in low-income countries have been vaccinated, compared to over 70% in high-income countries. Adoption of the vaccines approved in high-income countries has been considerably slower in low- and middle-income countries due to financial, legal, and logistical barriers. This has led to gross inequalities in vaccine distribution and access. .

The review includes 21 published randomised clinical trials. It compares these five approved vaccines against nine vaccines approved in other countries – Sinopharm (China), SinoVac (China), QazVac (Kazakhstan), Covaxin (India), Soberana (Cuba), Zifivax (China), Medicago (Canada), Clover (China), and Cansino (China).

Statistical comparison found that all of the vaccines, regardless of their approval status in the US and the EU, to have comparable efficacy. Efficacy against symptomatic infection was 84% for approved vaccines versus 72% for the other vaccines. Efficacy against severe infection was 94% for approved vaccines and 86% for unapproved vaccines.

This new information could make the vaccine market more competitive, driving prices down and making vaccines more accessible.  Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are being sold for up to US $ 20 per dose, despite estimated production prices of $1 per dose. Unless lower-cost vaccine alternatives are found, millions of people could remain unvaccinated for years.

For more information please contact: Dr Andrew Hill, Senior Visiting Research Fellow, Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, University of Liverpool, UK.
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