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Coronavirus vaccine: The story of the race to solve the COVID conundrum

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In this March 12, 2020, file photo, a researcher at Protein Sciences reaches for a vial in a lab in Meriden, Connecticut, US
In this March 12, 2020, file photo, a researcher at Protein Sciences reaches for a vial in a lab in Meriden, Connecticut, US   -   Copyright  Jessica Hill/AP
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Here is our updated timeline on the global hunt for coronavirus vaccine:

December 31: New coronavirus identified

China reports a cluster of cases of pneumonia in the city of Wuhan, leading to the identification of a new coronavirus.

January 10: Scientists reveal genome of a new coronavirus

A week and a half after China reports a new form of pneumonia, scientists map the genome sequence of what is later identified as COVID-19, a key first step on the road to finding a vaccine.

January 11: Scientists publish molecular blueprint of the new coronavirus

The coronavirus sequenced genome is published, which marks the start of international efforts to study a vaccine.

March 16: Vaccine trial begins in the US

The US National Institutes of Health begins trial of an "investigational" vaccine on 45 healthy adults, aged 18 to 55, after promising results in animal models.

The trial is funded by the US National Institutes of Health and Massachusetts-based biotechnology company, Moderna Inc, and it is set to last six weeks.

April 2: 'Trials to test tuberculosis vaccine against COVID-19 underway'

France's National Institute of Health and Medical Research says "clinical trials to test the BCG vaccine's efficacy against COVID-19 are underway or about to start in the Netherlands, Germany, France, Spain and Australia."

April 13: EU pledges €80 million for vaccine research

The EU funding is earmarked to support German biopharmaceutical company CureVac in developing a vaccine.

April 14: GSK and Sanofi team up to find COVID-19 vaccine

The British-French duo, GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi announce clinical trials for the second half of 2020, hoping to make - if these trials are successful - the vaccine widely available by the second half of 2021.

April 22: Germany announces the beginning of clinical trials for coronavirus vaccine

Germany's BioNTech and American partner Pfizer are given the green light from the Paul-Ehrlich Institute, the German authority for the certification of vaccines, to begin testing a variety of experimental vaccines on 200 healthy volunteers, aged between 18 and 55.

April 24: University of Oxford begins human trials for coronavirus vaccine

Tests of the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 drug begin on 1,112 people divided into two groups (half of them receiving a vaccine and the other half a placebo), with the aim to stimulate their immune system to attack the virus.

The drug was created by using a chimpanzee virus which was genetically engineered to carry coronavirus. The UK government is funding the trial with a €51 million contribution.

May 13: France-US political row over vaccine priority

The French pharmaceutical giant, Sanofi causes a political firestorm by saying it would give the United States priority access to a vaccine as it was the first country to fund the research.

French Secretary of State for Economy and Finance Agnes Pannier-Runacher says it is "unacceptable," while prime minister Edouard Philippe summons Sanofi's CEO for reassurance over the vaccine's distribution.

May 22: University of Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine enters phase two of its trial

Over 10,000 adults and children take part in phase two of their clinical trial, ten times more than the first phase which began in April.

June 13: European countries partner up to strike huge vaccine deal

Pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca says it has struck a deal with Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and France for the supply of up to 400 million doses of the vaccine the University of Oxford is trialling.

If it proves successful, delivery will begin by the end of 2020.

The British-Swedish company had already signed similar agreements with Britain, the US, the Norway-headquartered Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and the international vaccine alliance Gavi.

June 15: London's Imperial College announces beginning of human trials of vaccine

Three hundred healthy people participate in Imperial College's study by receiving two doses of a potential vaccine.

If the test shows a promising response, larger trials will take place later in the year with around 6,000 healthy volunteers.

The study is being financed with around €46 million from the UK government plus another €5.5 million coming from philanthropic donations.

June 27: Brazil secures up to 100 million doses of vaccine hopeful tested at the University of Oxford

Brazil signs a €113 million agreement with AstraZeneca for access to a vaccine hopeful being tested at the University of Oxford. The deal gives it the right to produce an initial quantity of 30 million doses in December and January when the vaccine is still in the testing phase.

If the vaccine passes clinical trials, Brazil will then be able to produce an additional 70 million doses at an estimated cost of €2.05 each.

July 1: 'Positive results' from BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine tests

Pfizer and BioNTech report their experimental BNT162b1 vaccine "is able to produce neutralising antibody responses in humans at or above the levels observed in convalescent sera – and that it does so at relatively low dose levels.".

The vaccine is being tested on 45 participants aged 18 to 55 in the US.

In this phase, the test is aimed at verifying that the vaccine is not toxic and triggers an immune system response against the virus. There are three other vaccine candidates being tested as part of the BNT162 program.

July 7: Novavax receives $1.6 billion from US government for 100 million vaccines

Novavax receives $1.6 billion (€1.4 billion) from the US government for developing a vaccine including a trial, manufacturing and 100 million doses of its vaccine candidate.

Regeneron Pharmaceuticals had received $450 million (€397 million) to make and supply its own COVID-19 vaccine candidate.

July 10: UK rejects chance to join EU's COVID-19 vaccine scheme

The UK officially rejects the opportunity to join the European Union's coronavirus vaccine scheme.

Discussions had been "ongoing" between London and Brussels after the bloc reached out to the UK earlier this month to establish whether it wanted to cooperate on its approach to producing and distributing an effective COVID-19 vaccine.

But the UK government confirms on July 10 that it had decided not to participate in the scheme.

July 15: 'Good news': US hails results from trial

“No matter how you slice this, this is good news," says the US government's top infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci, as positive results from a vaccination trial are released.

The trial, funded by the US National Institutes of Health and Massachusetts-based biotechnology company, Moderna Inc, found that the first 45 volunteers who underwent testing have developed neutralising antibodies in their bloodstream, at levels comparable to those who have survived COVID-19.

The trial is to enter a final stage around July 27, in a 30,000-person study, to find out if the injections are strong enough to protect against coronavirus.

July 16: UK says Russia is behind cyberattack aimed at stealing vaccine research data

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab accuses Russian agencies of trying to steal information related to research into a coronavirus vaccine. On July 19, Russia's Ambassador to the UK Andrei Kelin rejects the allegations, saying they make "no sense".

July 20: UK secures 90 million coronavirus candidate vaccine doses

The UK government signs a deal to buy 90 million doses of "promising coronavirus vaccine candidates" as the hunt for a COVID-19 vaccine continues.

This is in addition to an existing agreement with AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford to research, develop and manufacture a COVID-19 vaccine for the UK public.

July 20: University of Oxford vaccine found to produce COVID-19 antibodies

Scientists at the University of Oxford say their experimental coronavirus vaccine has been shown in an early trial to prompt a protective immune response in hundreds of people who got the shot.

Scientists said that they found their experimental COVID-19 vaccine produced a dual immune response in people aged 18 to 55.

July 27: Biggest test yet of an experimental COVID-19 vaccine begins in the US

Thirty thousand volunteers take part in the final testing phase of a potential vaccine developed by US biotech company Moderna Inc and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The results are not expected before November, NIH's infectious-diseases chief said.

July 29: UK secures access to 60 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine candidate

The UK announced that it secured access to 60 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine candidate from GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi Pasteur. It's based on the same technology used to produce Sanofi's flu vaccine, the UK government said.

The UK has already secured millions of doses of three other candidate vaccines.

August 11: Russia becomes first country to register a coronavirus vaccine

Russia was the first country in the world to register a coronavirus vaccine for use.

But many scientists in Russia and abroad questioned the decision to make the vaccine available for use before Phase 3 trials, which normally last for months and involve thousands of people.

August 14: EU secures 300 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine

The European Commission signed a contract with Swedish-British pharmaceutical group AstraZeneca for 300 million doses of a potential vaccine, with an option for another 100 million additional doses.

Brussels had already obtained 300 million doses of a potential vaccine by French pharma company Sanofi, as well as another 400 million of the one studied by Johnson & Johnson, in the US.

August 28: UK to allow emergency use of any effective COVID-19 vaccine

The UK government said it was adopting “reinforced safeguards” to allow the country's medicines regulatory agency to grant temporary authorisation of a COVID-19 vaccine, provided it meets safety and quality standards.

The changes mean that people could be vaccinated before the vaccine is fully licensed but only after it's proven to be safe and effective.

September 3: Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline say they will begin human trials of a vaccine

Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline will begin human trials of a potential COVID-19 vaccine, testing the vaccine on 440 adults in the United States and expect first results in December.

September 4: Russia's COVID-19 vaccine trials were 'encouraging but small'

A report by The Lancet medical journal on a COVID-19 vaccine developed and tested in Russia says it has shown promising results but adds that more work is needed.

In trials so far, the experimental Sputnik V vaccine elicited an immune response and has brought no adverse side effects, according to Russian researchers. Doctors studied 76 healthy volunteers aged between 18 and 60, over six weeks.

September 8: Pharmaceutical companies sign pledge to uphold the 'scientific process'

Nine major pharmaceutical companies signed a pledge to uphold "the integrity of the scientific process as we work towards potential global regulatory filings and approvals of the first vaccines for COVID-19."

It came amid fears that a COVID-19 vaccine would be approved too quickly for political reasons.

September 9: Oxford University trial halted after participant falls ill

The late-stage COVID-19 candidate vaccine trials run by AstraZeneca were paused after a participant fell ill.

Trials later resumed once again after the incident, saying it was expected that some participants could become unwell amid large scale trials.

September 25: Chinese executive says vaccine ready by early 2021

A Chinese pharmaceutical company said the coronavirus vaccine it is developing should be ready by early 2021 for distribution worldwide.

October 1: Expert report says vaccine won't immediately end the pandemic

Finding a vaccine for COVID-19 does not mean an automatic return to normality, experts say, warning people to be "realistic" about the challenges that remain.

"Vaccines are held up as our best chance of getting our lives back to some sense of normality, but we have to be realistic," said Dr Fiona Culley of the National Heart and Lung Institute at Imperial College London.

October 13: Johnson & Johnson halts vaccine trial due to participant illness

Pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson announced the suspension of its clinical trial of a vaccine against COVID-19 after one of the participants fell ill.

"We have temporarily paused further dosing in all our COVID-19 vaccine candidate clinical trials, including the entire Phase 3 trial, due to unexplained illness in one participant," the group said in a statement.

October 15: Brussels unveils a COVID-19 vaccination strategy

Brussels unveiled its strategy to ensure any vaccine is deployed as quickly as possible across the bloc.

The European Commission urged member states to start work to ensure that when a vaccine has been approved by the European Medicines Agency, they can store and transport it appropriately and have the skilled workforce and medical equipment necessary to carry out the procedure.

October 20: UK to infect healthy volunteers with virus to test vaccines

Imperial College London and a group of researchers said that they are preparing to infect 90 healthy young volunteers with coronavirus to potentially speed up the development of a vaccine that could help end the pandemic.

October 21: EU signs contract with Johnson & Johnson for 400 million doses of vaccine

Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced a contract for the EU with Johnson & Johnson that will secure 400 million vaccine doses. It is the third contract the EU has with a pharmaceutical company.