FOCUS – The first Covid vaccines are starting to be injected, and 70 more are being tested on humans. Le Figaro takes stock of the main products.
Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, Sanofi … While a handful of vaccines are already on the market, nearly 70 other anti-Covid drugs are already in human clinical trials and 90 others are in development in the world, Le Figaro takes stock of the most emblematic of them, to understand everything about their characteristics and their differences.
Pfizer-BioNTech, the first vaccine validated in France
The treatment from the American laboratory Pfizer, developed in partnership with the German laboratory BioNTech, is the first vaccine to have been validated in the Western world, in the United Kingdom and then in Europe.
The German-American vaccine is announced to have an efficacy of 95%, at the end of the injection of two doses intramuscular, delayed from 21 days to six weeks. It is currently indicated for people 16 years of age and over. It is based on the technique ofMessenger RNA1, revolutionary but very recent.
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine comes with a major flaw: its storage. The processing locks strands of messenger RNA into lipid nanoparticles – fat. These nanoparticles need to be preserved at very low temperature: -70 ° C. It therefore requires “super freezers“. Other messenger RNA vaccines can be stored at a higher temperature, but due to lack of time, Pfizer has favored an approach “conservative”, According to the CEO of Acuitas Therapeutics, at the origin of the nanoparticles used.
The exact price of the contract signed by the European Commission with Pfizer is a closely guarded secret, but the product is expensive: according to Reuters, the price paid by Europe would be 15.5 euros per dose. For each person vaccinated, the cost would ultimately come to 31 euros. For comparison, a flu shot costs between 6 and 10 euros. Added to this is the price of “super freezersRelatively rare. 600 million doses were ordered in Europe.
Moderna, the easy-to-store messenger RNA
The Moderna vaccine is American. Approved in Europe and France in early January, it has also been cleared in the US and UK.
Moderna announces an efficiency of 94.1% for his vaccine. Two doses intramuscular are required, delayed a minimum of 28 days. This vaccine also usesMessenger RNA.
The group estimates that their vaccine can be stored for up to six months in a freezer, at -20 ° C, then up to thirty days in a refrigerator before use. This makes it easier to deliver than the Pfizer vaccine.
According to a leak from Belgian Minister Eva de Bleeker, each Moderna dose costs Europe 18 dollars, or about 15 euros. The cost ultimately comes down to 30 euros for two doses. And it has the advantage of not requiring “super freezer“. 160 million doses have been reserved by Europe.
AstraZeneca, the vaccine at a low price
Not yet approved in Europe, the AstraZeneca vaccine, developed with the University of Oxford, is already administered in the United Kingdom.
The Anglo-Swedish firm announced an efficiency of only 70% to reduce symptoms, which may seem disappointing, but no hospitalization of a vaccinated person has been recorded in clinical trials, which is very reassuring. Two doses are necessary, deferred from four to twelve weeks. Unlike Pfizer and Moderna products, the AstraZeneca vaccine uses a more traditional, viral vector technology2.
AstraZeneca says its vaccine can be “stored, transported and handled under conventional refrigerated conditions (between 2 and 8 ° C) for at least six months“. This allows large-scale vaccination, especially in pharmacies and general practitioners’ offices.
The AstraZeneca vaccine has the advantage of being inexpensive: around 2 euros the dose. A vaccinated person therefore costs 4 euros. 400 million doses were commissioned by Europe.
Curevac, the other German vaccine
The German vaccine from Curevac is the European vaccine par excellence. It has still not been validated.
Curevac is still in the testing phase. The company envisions efficiency similar to that of Pfizer and Moderna. The vaccine, which works by Messenger RNA, need two doses administered 28 days apart, intramuscularly.
The stability of the product has been tested at two temperatures for three months, at 5 ° C and -60 ° C. The results were conclusive in both cases, details a release, and up to 24 hours at room temperature before use.
The German vaccine should cost 10 euros per dose. The Twenty-Seven have booked up to 405 million doses from CureVac, including 180 million optional.
Johnson & Johnson, awaiting results
The vaccine from the American group Johnson & Johnson – developed by its Belgian subsidiary Janssen – is not yet available. The company is targeting deployment in March, to distribute one billion doses during the year.
Janssen has not yet announced an efficiency rate, due to lack of conclusive tests. The first results should be published in the coming weeks. That said, the firm promises to be confident – a single dose may be protective enough. In October, the clinical trial of the vaccine was halted due to a sick patient, which did not lead to any major problems. The vaccine is at viral vector, like that of AstraZeneca.
Like the AstraZeneca – Oxford treatment, the Janssen vaccine can remain stable for two years at -20 ° C and at least three months at 2-8 ° C, the manufacturer claims.
The American laboratory indicated that its vaccine would be sold at cost price. One dose would cost 6.93 euros. 400 million doses have been reserved in Europe.
Sanofi, France disappoints
Sanofi is one of the 6 global laboratories from which Europe has pre-ordered vaccine doses. But the French company, which is developing two vaccines, is lagging behind. First announced for early 2021, the first treatment, based on protein technology4, will not be finalized until the end of the year. Due, in particular, to the publication in mid-December of results deemed to be “disappointing»: In people over 50, the treatment does not produce a sufficient immune response. Its second treatment, based on messenger RNA, is still in its infancy.
Sputnik V, the Russian vaccine
Russian vaccine Sputnik V caused a sensation by being the first vaccine in the world announced as “effective” against Covid. But the spectacular announcement made by Vladimir Putin has not yet been the subject of a scientific publication that would prove its seriousness. Its name refers to the launch of Sputnik, the first artificial satellite. The Russian authorities submitted a request for authorization in the European Union on January 20, but their vaccine has so far only been ordered by Hungary.
Russia promises efficiency 91.4%. Sputnik V uses, like AstraZeneca and Janssen, a technology to viral base. Two doses are necessary.
Sputnik V should be stored in lyophilized form in the refrigerator between 2 and 8 ° C.
Russia has priced a dose of vaccine at around 8 euros. A vaccinated person therefore costs 16 euros. But Europe has so far not ordered doses by Spoutnik V.
Sinopharm, one of the Chinese vaccines
Sinopharm’s Chinese vaccine was approved by the country’s health authorities in late December. It is not expected to be marketed in Europe, at least for now.
Sinopharm communicated at the end of December on an effectiveness of 79%. It is said “inactivated “3 . Two doses are required a minimum of 28 days apart.
Since it uses a classic vaccine method, it should be kept between 2 and 8 ° C, in a refrigerator.
No details have been revealed on its price. Europe only ordered no dose.
To see also – Why are we slowly vaccinating against Covid-19?
The technologies in question
1 Messenger RNA : RNA is a molecule similar to DNA. It is described as “messengerSince it is used in cells to make a temporary copy of a DNA fragment, to transmit genetic information necessary for the production of proteins. It cannot integrate into the human genome, contrary to what some conspiracy theories claim. The body, by reading the information contained in the strands of RNA, makes “spike” proteins, which will cause cells to trigger an immune reaction. Quick to produce, the messenger RNA vaccine is sometimes difficult to store.
2 Viral vector vaccine : it takes as support another virus, weakened to no longer be pathogenic, but capable of replicating in the human body. This virus carries a modified genetic code to make Covid-19 antigens. This method is effective, but expensive and complex.
3 Inactivated vaccine : we inject a virus “kill»(By heat, radiation …), which has lost its ability to replicate. However, it has retained enough of its integrity to be recognized by the immune system, which will cause a reaction. The protection that such a vaccine gives is usually less durable – so regular boosters need to be given.
4 Protein vaccine : it only contains proteins from the coronavirus, which are directly injected into the body, then recognized. These proteins are often accompanied by products called adjuvants, which stimulate an immune response. This method can have significant costs and development time.