With confirmed COVID-19 cases in the United States surpassing 30 million and continuing to grow, scientists have spent the past year developing vaccines and treatments to slow the pandemic and lessen the disease’s damage.
On Oct. 22, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)Trusted Source gave the go-ahead to Veklury (remdesivir), the first drug approved for the treatment of COVID-19. It is intended for use in adults and children 12 years and older.
The agency has also issued emergency use authorizations (EUAs)Trusted Source for several other treatments, including convalescent plasma therapy, a drug used to sedate people placed on a ventilator, and two drugs for people undergoing a type of blood purification known as continuous renal replacement therapy.
An EUA allows doctors to use these drugs to treat people even before the medications have gone through the formal FDA approval process.
As we wait for additional treatments and the distribution of already approved vaccines, there are still other toolsTrusted Source we can use to protect ourselves and others from the new coronavirus.
“Even though technological advances allow us to do certain things more quickly, we still have to rely on social distancing, contact tracing, self-isolation, and other measures,” Dr. Bruce Y. Lee, a professor at the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health & Health Policy, told Healthline.
Vaccines are designed to protect people before they’re exposed to a virus — in this case SARS-CoV-2.
A vaccine basically trains the immune systemTrusted Source to recognize and attack a virus, even one it hasn’t seen before. While vaccines imitate an infection, they almost never cause illness.
Vaccines also protect the community by reducing the spread of disease among people. This protection is known as herd, or community, immunity.
Here’s a look at some of the ongoing COVID-19 vaccine projects:
Moderna / National Institutes of Health. The company began testing its two-dose messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine in March 2020 in a phase 1 clinical trial, with promising results.
In late July, Moderna began phase 3 clinical trials of the vaccine.
In late August, company officials said preliminary phase 1 trial data showed that the vaccine elicited a promising immune response in 10 people between the ages of 56 and 70 as well as 10 people over age of 70.
The company announced in late October that it had finished recruiting all 30,000 participants in the phase 3 trial. This included more than 7,000 people over the age of 65 and more than 5,000 younger people with chronic conditions that increase their risk of severe COVID-19.
In early October, company officials announced their vaccine won’t be available for wide distribution until spring 2021. Later in the month, Moderna’s CEO told investors that the trial’s data and safety monitoring board could start analyzing study data in November.
In mid-November, Moderna officials reported that their vaccine had achieved an effective rate of 94 percent in initial phase 3 trial results. Experts said more testing and more information is needed.
On November 30, Moderna officials said they would apply to the FDA for its vaccine to be approved for emergency use.
On December 18, the FDA grantedTrusted Source an emergency use authorization for the Moderna vaccine. The company began shipping out the product three days later.
In May 2021, company officials announced their vaccine was shown to be effective in clinical trials against COVID-19 in children 12 to 17 years old.
In early June, Moderna officials asked the FDA to grant them emergency use authorization to administer their vaccine to children from 12 to 17 years old.
In September, Moderna officials said they are developing a combination booster shot for both COVID-19 and the flu. The single shot has yet to go through a clinical trial.
In late September, the company also released results of a phase 3 clinical trial that showed its COVID-19 did not lose any of its effectiveness 5 months after a second dose had been administered.
In late October, company officials reported that their COVID-19 vaccine was safe and effective for children from 5 years to 11 years old.
Pfizer / BioNTech / Fosun Pharma. Drugmaker Pfizer teamed up German biotech company BioNTech and Chinese drugmaker Fosun Pharma to develop a two-dose mRNA vaccine.
In August 2020, company officials said the vaccine had produced a “robust” response in a phase 1/2 clinical trial.
The company launched a phase 3 trial in late July, with a goal to recruit 30,000 people from the United States, Brazil, Argentina, and Germany. They later announced plans to increase this to 44,000 people. In October, the company said it received approval to enroll children as young as 12 years in the trial — the first American trial to include this age group.
As of late October, the trial had enrolled more than 42,000 people. At the time, the company had not yet conducted an interim analysis of the study data, which puts it behind its original goal of doing so by September. However, the company still expects to have enough data sometime in November to apply for emergency use authorization from the FDA.
On November 9, the company announced that its vaccine had been more than 90 percent effective in clinical trial participants.
A few days later, company officials announced they were applying for an emergency use authorization from the FDA for their vaccine. It was the first regulatory approval in the United States for a COVID-19 vaccine. The officials said the vaccine could be available to high-risk groups as early as mid-December.
On December 8, the FDA released documents that reported the Pfizer vaccine offers some protection after the first dose and nearly full protection after a second dose.
On December 11, the FDA granted Trusted Sourceemergency use authorization for the Pfizer vaccine. The company started distributing the product two days later.
In January 2021, company officials said a study indicated their vaccine is only slightly less effective against the COVID-19 variant from South Africa.
In mid-February, a study from Israel reported a 94 percent decrease in symptomatic COVID-19 cases among people who received both doses of the Pfizer vaccine. That studyTrusted Source also indicated the vaccine was 85 percent effective 15 to 28 days after an initial dose.
In mid-February, Pfizer officials announced that they believe their vaccine can be stored at regular freezer temperatures.
In late February, a study from the United Kingdom reported that a single dose of the Pfizer vaccine can reduce the risk of contracting the novel coronavirus by 70 percent with an 85 percent reduction after two doses.
In early March, a study out of Israel reported that the Pfizer vaccine was highly effective in preventing COVID-19 in people with a variety of conditions, including obesity, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes.
In mid-March, company officials released from clinical data from Israel, reporting their vaccine was 97 percent effective in preventing symptomatic disease from COVID-19.
In mid-May, the FDA granted emergency use authorization for the Pfizer vaccine to be administered to children 12 years to 15 years old.
In early June, Pfizer officials announced they will begin testing their vaccine on children younger than 12. In late October, they said the trial had shown their vaccine was safe and effective for children 5 years to 11 years old.
Inovio. When COVID-19 appeared in December, drugmaker Inovio had already been working on a DNA vaccine for MERS, which is caused by another coronavirus. This allowed the company to quickly develop a potential COVID-19 vaccine.
Company officials announced at the end of April that it had enrolled 40 healthy volunteers in its phase 1 trial. In late September, the company announced that its phase 2/3 trial is on hold as the it responds to the FDA’s questions about the study.
In early August, company officials announced their vaccine has to be shown to be 93 percent effective after 6 months. However, they said they believe a third dose of booster vaccine will be needed in the near future.
In mid-August, Pfizer and BioNTech officials submitted their early clinical trial data to the FDA as part of their application to receive approval for a COVID-19 booster shot.
On September 20, company officials reported the first trial of their COVID-19 vaccine on children ages 5 to 11 showed the vaccine was safe, well tolerated, and produced a robust antibody response. The companies plan to apply for an emergency use authorization from the FDA.
Sanofi / Translate Bio. Drugmaker Sanofi announced in February that it would work with Translate Bio to develop an mRNA vaccine. Preclinical testing showed that the vaccine could elicit a strong immune response in mice and monkeys. The company expects results from its phase 2 trial in early December. After that, they will start a phase 3 study.
CanSino Biologics. Scientists at this Chinese company are also working on a potential vaccine that uses an adenovirus known as Ad5 to carry coronavirus proteins into cells.
In late July, they reported that participants in a phase 2 trial showed a strong immune response when given the vaccine. However, they noted older adults had a weaker response, suggesting two doses might be needed for that segment of the population.
The Chinese military approved the vaccine in June, allowing the vaccine to be given to its armed forces. In August, the company began phase 3 trials in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Russia.
Gamaleya Research Institute. This Russian institute developedTrusted Source a vaccine that includes two adenoviruses, Ad5 and Ad26.
In August, President Vladimir Putin announced that the country’s regulatory agency had approved the vaccine, even before phase 3 trials had started. Russian officials later said the vaccine had received a “conditional registration certificate.”
Results of a phase 1/2 trial found that the vaccine elicited an immune response with mild side effects. Phase 3 trials are currently under way in Russia, Belarus, United Arab Emirates, and India.
Johnson & Johnson. Drugmaker Johnson & Johnson announced in late July that it had begun a phase 1/2 trial in people after their adenovirus vaccine had shown promising results when used in monkeys.
In late September, the company announced it was starting a phase 3 trial of its one-dose vaccine with 60,000 participants. In mid-October, the company announced it was pausing this trial due to an “unexplained illness” with one of the participants. The company has since received permission to restart the study.
In mid-November, Johnson & Johnson officials said they expected their vaccine to be ready for FDA approval by February.
In mid-January, company officials reported that in early clinical trials nearly all participants developed an immune response from the vaccine. In addition, the response lasted for at least 71 days.
In late January, company officials announced that their vaccine was 66 percent effective overall and more than 50 percent effective against the new variants.
In early February, Johnson & Johnson requested an emergency use authorization for its vaccine. FDA regulators will examine the data in the ensuing weeks because this is the first of the one-dose vaccines. An FDA advisory panel is scheduled to consider the company’s request in late February.
In late February, company officials announced they will be able to deliver 20 million doses of their vaccine by the end of March.
In late February, the company received emergency use authorization from the FDA for its single-dose vaccine.
In early March, the White House announced that Merck will help Johnson & Johnson manufacture its vaccine so the company can hit production targets.
In mid-September, company officials announced that a booster dose of its COVID-19 vaccine produced a strong immune response in participants in a clinical trial. The boosters were given 2 months to 6 months after the initial vaccine dose.
AstraZeneca / University of Oxford. A phase 1 clinical trial at the University of Oxford began in late April. The vaccine is based on a chimpanzee adenovirus, which shuttles coronavirus proteins into cells.
In August, AstraZeneca began phase 3 trials in Brazil, South Africa, and the United StatesTrusted Source. These trials were halted in September when a study volunteer developed a rare spinal inflammatory disorder called transverse myelitis. The trials were restarted a week later in Brazil and the United Kingdom. In late October, the FDA authorized the U.S. trial to resume.
In mid-November, company officials said their vaccine had produced a strong immune response in a clinical trial that involved people over the age of 70.
Data released on December 8 indicated that the vaccine was safe but only about 70 percent effective.
In early February, company officials announced that phase 3 clinical trial results showed that their vaccine was 82 percent effective after 12 weeks. They added that the vaccine was 100 percent effective in preventing severe disease, hospitalization, and death. They also noted that the vaccine achieved up to a 67 percent efficacy in preventing disease transmission.
A few days later, South Africa officials suspended plans to inoculate their front-line healthcare workers because clinical trials indicated the AstraZeneca vaccine wasn’t effective in preventing mild to moderate illness with the COVID-19 variant now dominant in that country.
In mid-February, the World Health Organization approvedTrusted Source an emergency use authorization for the AstraZeneca vaccine to be distributed worldwide.
Sanofi / GSK / TranslateBio. Drugmaker Sanofi is pursuing two vaccines. The company is working with drugmaker GSK on a vaccine based on proteins from the coronavirus. When combined with another compound, called an adjuvant, the proteins elicit an immune response. They expect results from a phase 2 trial in early December, after which they will begin a phase 3 study.
Sanofi is also working with biotech company Translate Bio to develop an mRNA vaccine. They expect to start clinical trials in December.
Novavax. This company received up to $388 million in funding this spring from the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), a group that has funded COVID-19 vaccine development. The vaccine is made by attaching virus proteins to microscopic particles.
In August, Novavax launched a phase 2 trial in South Africa. A month later, the company began a phase 3 trial in the United Kingdom. It plans to start another phase 3 trial in the United States by the end of November.
In late January, company officials announced their vaccine was 90 percent effective overall and 60 percent effective against the South African variant.
University of Queensland in Australia / CSL. Researchers at the university developed a vaccine by growing viral proteins in cell cultures. They began preclinical testing stages in early April. The phase 1 trial in people began in early July. A phase 2/3 trial is expected to start late this year.
Wuhan Institute of Biological Products / Sinopharm. Chinese company Sinopharm is testing an inactivated virus vaccine developed by the Wuhan Institute of Biological Products. After a successful phase 1 trialTrusted Source, researchers launched phase 3 trials in the UAE in July and a month later in Peru and Morocco.
Beijing Institute of Biological Products / Sinopharm. Sinopharm is testing a second inactivated virus vaccine developed by Beijing Institute of Biological Products.
Phase 3 trials began in June in the UAE and in September in Argentina. In September, the UAE approved the vaccine for use on healthcare workers even before the results of the phase 3 trials.
Sinovac Biotech. This Chinese company launched phase 3 trials of its inactivated virus vaccine in Brazil in July, Indonesia in August, and Turkey in September. In August, the Chinese government issued emergency approval for the vaccine for use on high-risk groups.
Bharat Biotech / Indian Council of Medical Research / Indian National Institute of Virology. Indian company Bharat announced in late October that it was beginning a phase 3 trial of its inactivated virus vaccine.
Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Australia is conducting a phase 3 trial of the bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) tuberculosis vaccine to see if it also protects people from the coronavirus. This trial is being run in Australia, Brazil, the Netherlands, Spain, and the United Kingdom.
Some scientists think the polio vaccineTrusted Source might boost the immune system just enough to fight off the new coronavirus, although there’s no evidence yet to confirm this theory.
Two U.S. researchers also suggested that the measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine might offer protection against inflammation and sepsis in people with COVID-19. They recommend starting a clinical trial with the MMR vaccine in healthcare workers.