COVID-19 Vaccines

Types of COVID-19 vaccines

There are presently four major types of COVID-19 vaccines in developmental stages, some of which have already been approved in various countries. They include:

  • Viral vector vaccines
  • Gene-based vaccines (mRNA) (nucleic acid)
  • Inactivated vaccines with viral proteins (protein subunit)
  • Live-attenuated vaccines (‘whole virus’)

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Relevant decision criteria for vaccine selection

Several risk factors are considered in the choice of vaccine selection. Some of these factors include the following:

  • Age
    Vaccines approval is – (depending on the country and the analysis of the study results) - partly limited to certain age groups. For that reason, different vaccines are recommended or available depending on an individual’s age.
  • Efficacy of vaccines
    Studies on the efficacy of vaccines are aimed to achieve different goals. For example, some vaccine efficacy studies take into consideration the severity of the courses and hospitalizations, the viral load after vaccination, protection against virus variants, or the long-term effects with symptom-free courses. So far, no risk of infection has been proven for only Pfizer-BioNTech’s Comirnaty.
  • Number of doses required
    Most vaccines, especially the novel gene-based (mRNA) vaccines, must be administered in two doses to be fully effective. Presently, there are two vector vaccines that require only one dose: the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine (approved in Bahrain and USA), and the CanSino Biologics vaccine (approved in China, Mexico and Pakistan).
  • The time interval between doses
    With the decision for a vaccine, the need for a second vaccination also arises for most of the currently available vaccines. The time interval between the first and second vaccination usually varies between 3-4 weeks, however, it can also be up to 3 months after the first vaccination, as in the case of the AstraZeneca vaccine for instance. With Sinovac vaccine, the second dose is administered after the 2 weeks.

As earlier indicated, there are four major types
of vaccines namely:

  • Viral vector vaccines
  • Gene-based vaccines (mRNA) (nucleic acid)
  • Inactivated vaccines with viral proteins (protein subunit)
  • Live-attenuated vaccines (‘whole virus’)

These vaccine types are explicitly explained below.

1

Viral Vector Vaccines

Vector vaccines consist of viruses that are harmless to humans. These viruses are called vectors. The vectors are not capable of reproducing in humans, or only to a very limited extent. For the human immune system to mount a defense against the pathogen, it must come into contact with molecules (antigens) of the pathogen. This can be achieved in several ways.

Either a molecule from the viral envelope of the vector is exchanged for a molecule from the envelope of the pathogen, or the vector contains the information for the assembly of one or more protein molecules (antigens) of the pathogen. This information is read in the human cell, and the antigen of the pathogen is produced and presented to the immune system. Hence, the immune response desired in vaccination is triggered.

During these modifications of the vector, care is taken to ensure that it remains harmless to humans and the environment.

Company

Oxford University – AstraZeneca
Gamaleya
Janssen (Johnson & Johnson)
CanSino Biologics
Bharat Biotech

Vaccine Name

AstraZeneca
Sputnik V
Ad26.COV2-S
Ad5-nCoV
Covaxin

Doses

x2
x1
x1
x2
x2

Time between doses

28 days - up to 12 weeks
21 days
-
-
28 days

Efficacy* (Phase 3 results)

62-90%
92%
66-85%
66%
n.a.
* Depending on study/criteria tested

Oxford University – AstraZeneca

Vaccine Name
Doses
Time between doses
Efficacy* (Phase 3 results)
AstraZeneca
x2
28 days - up to 12 weeks
62-90%

Gamaleya

Vaccine Name
Doses
Time between doses
Efficacy* (Phase 3 results)
Sputnik V
x2
21 days
92%

Janssen (Johnson & Johnson)

Vaccine Name
Doses
Time between doses
Efficacy* (Phase 3 results)
Ad26.COV2-S
x1
-
66-85%

CanSino Biologics

Vaccine Name
Doses
Time between doses
Efficacy* (Phase 3 results)
Ad5-nCoV
x1
-
66%

Bharat Biotech

Vaccine Name
Doses
Time between doses
Efficacy* (Phase 3 results)
Covaxin
x2
28 days
n.a.
* Depending on study/criteria tested
2

Gene-Based Vaccines (mRNA) (Nucleic Acid)

This new type of vaccine takes a different approach. It does not administer viruses or virus components, but only their genetic blueprints. These blueprints are hidden in the viral genome (DNA/RNA), which in the case of the coronavirus is present in a “mRNA strand". This is not infectious and therefore cannot cause COVID-19 disease.

If the mRNA, that is, the blueprint for SARS-CoV-2 virus components enters the human cell, it is read there. The cell then uses the blueprint to produce the (harmless) viral proteins itself, which the immune system recognizes as foreign and reacts to them by producing antibodies.

However, the mRNA is only read and is not integrated into the human genome, but is degraded by the body.

Company

Pfizer-BioNTech
Moderna
CureVac

Vaccine Name

Comirnaty
Moderna
CvnCoV

Doses

x2
x2
x2

Time between doses

21 days
28 days
n.a.

Efficacy* (Phase 3 results)

95%
95%
n.a.
* Depending on study/criteria tested

Pfizer-BioNTech

Vaccine Name
Doses
Time between doses
Efficacy* (Phase 3 results)
Comirnaty
x2
21 days
95%

Moderna

Vaccine Name
Doses
Time between doses
Efficacy* (Phase 3 results)
Moderna
x2
28 days
95%

CureVac

Vaccine Name
Doses
Time between doses
Efficacy* (Phase 3 results)
CvnCoV
x2
n.a.
n.a.
* Depending on study/criteria tested

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3

Inactivated Vaccines With Viral Proteins (Protein subunit)

Several companies worldwide are working on the classical vaccination method against Corona with dead vaccines. Inactive "dead" Sars-CoV-2 viruses are used for this. They have previously been modified either through chemicals, heat, or radiation so that they can no longer reproduce. These inactivated viruses are recognized by the body as "foreign", which triggers its immune response, but no longer cause disease.

Company

Sinopharm
Sinovac Biotech
Novavax
Anhui Zhifei Longcom Biopharmaceutical
Research Institute for Biological Safety Problems

Vaccine Name

BBIBP-CorV
CoronaVac
NVX-CoV2373
n.a.
QazCovid-in

Doses

x2
x2
x2
n.a.
n.a.

Time between doses

21-28 days

14 days

21 days

n.a.
n.a.

Efficacy* (Phase 3 results)

50-91%
50-91%
n.a.
n.a.
n.a.
* Depending on study/criteria tested

Sinopharm

Vaccine Name
Doses
Time between doses
Efficacy* (Phase 3 results)
BBIBP-CorV
x2
21-28 days
50-91%

Sinovac Biotech

Vaccine Name
Doses
Time between doses
Efficacy* (Phase 3 results)
CoronaVac
x2
14 days
50-91%

Novavax

Vaccine Name
Doses
Time between doses
Efficacy* (Phase 3 results)
NVX-CoV2373
x2
21 days
n.a.

Anhui Zhifei Longcom Biopharmaceutical

Vaccine Name
Doses
Time between doses
Efficacy* (Phase 3 results)
n.a.
n.a.
n.a.
n.a.

Research Institute for Biological Safety Problems

Vaccine Name
Doses
Time between doses
Efficacy* (Phase 3 results)
QazCovid-in
n.a.
n.a.
n.a.
* Depending on study/criteria tested
4

Live-Attenuated Vaccines ("Whole Virus")

Live-attenuated vaccines contain pathogens that can still reproduce, i.e. are "viable", but whose pathogenic properties have been bred out. This is also referred to as attenuated pathogens. Examples are vaccines against mumps, shingles, measles, chickenpox, and rubella. The live-attenuated vaccine COVI-VAC from Codagenix is currently being tested in Phase I trials. This vaccine may not be suitable for immunocompromised individuals.

VIDEO: Learn more about the four types of COVID-19 vaccines and how they work!

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