A new COVID vaccine called Corbevax could help vaccinate the world

key takeaways

  • Corbevax is a COVID-19 vaccine that other countries can easily manufacture.
  • The vaccine is also cheap, making it better for low-income countries to get vaccinated.
  • The vaccine is approved for use in India.

A new vaccine developed by Texas researchers may help vaccinate people around the world against COVID-19. Why? It is inexpensive to make and easy to distribute.

The vaccine, called Corbevax, just received emergency use authorization in India, and the researchers behind the vaccine hope it will be used as an affordable option in other countries with low vaccination rates.

“Researchers are giving up their intellectual property in order to provide all countries, and most importantly, low- and middle-income countries, the means to do so,” Thomas Russo, MD, professor and director of infectious diseases at the University at Buffalo in New York, told VigorTip. “They’re basically providing the formula so that the vaccine can be produced cheaply. That’s a really cool thing, and it’s critical to getting more people in the world vaccinated against COVID-19.”

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The vaccine, which has been in development since 2011, was developed in collaboration with vaccine co-developer Maria Elena Bottazzi, Ph.D., associate dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, and co-director of the Texas Children’s Hospital Vaccine Center at Baylor National School of Tropical Medicine. Dr. Peter Hotez, Professor and Dean and Co-Director of the Vaccine Development Center at Texas Children’s Hospital.

The pair initially worked on developing a vaccine for another coronavirus, SARS, Bottazzi told VigorTip.

“All the information we had gathered earlier came in handy when we found out that this epidemic was caused by a similar coronavirus,” she said. “It allows us to develop a vaccine fairly quickly.”

How does Corbevax work?

Corbevax uses protein subunit technology, which means it uses proteins from a virus (in this case, COVID-19) to generate an immune response in people without making them sick.

“It uses more traditional techniques,” Bottazzi said, noting that the technology behind her vaccine is similar to that of some hepatitis B vaccines.

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Two Phase III clinical trials of Corbevax in more than 3,000 people found the vaccine to be safe and well-tolerated in patients. The vaccine was found to be over 90% effective against infection with the original COVID-19 strain and over 80% against symptomatic infection against the Delta variant.

The vaccine also has 50% fewer side effects than the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine Covishield.

what does this mean to you

Corbevax makes COVID-19 vaccination more widely available to people around the world, especially in low-income countries where it is difficult to get vaccinated. Higher global vaccination rates will ultimately help reduce the spread of COVID-19 and the development of new variants.

Why is the Corbevax vaccine receiving so much attention?

The way vaccines are made makes it easier for companies around the world to produce them, Bottazzi said.

“This gives us an advantage that we can use a lot of doses,” she said. “In India, for example, they can make 100 million doses. The scalability of other vaccine manufacturers is almost limitless.”

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Protein-based vaccines also have a long safety record and tend to have very “mild” side effects, if any, Bottazzi said. “For those who are nervous about receiving an mRNA vaccine, this could be a good option,” she noted.

The vaccine could also produce a “very strong and durable response,” Botazzi said.

The low cost of vaccines is also a huge benefit. While Bottazzi said she and Hotez “don’t know the exact cost details,” it shouldn’t be expensive to manufacture. (Hotez estimates the cost per dose to be between $1 and $1.50.)

Where do the COVID variants come from?

“This will help increase vaccination rates and increase global vaccination rates that are currently unacceptable,” Richard Marlink, MD, director of the Rutgers Global Health Institute, told VigorTip.

Having a vaccine made with more traditional technology “also means it’s easier to distribute,” Marlink said. “You don’t need the ultra-cold temperature that mRNA vaccines require. … The lower cost and easier distribution make it a huge breakthrough.”

Russo agreed. “It’s absolutely critical,” he said. “We need to vaccinate the world to contain the infection, and that helps make that happen.”

Bottazzi stressed that more people around the world must be vaccinated.

“If we don’t really start distributing, delivering and getting more vaccines to people in areas with very low coverage, we’ll never be able to avoid this virus mutating,” she said. “If more people had been vaccinated earlier, we could have avoided Omicron and Delta.”

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