Development of First Prototype Bulgarian COVID-19 Vaccine to be Presented at Vaccine Congress
The development of the first prototype of the Bulgarian vaccine against COVID-19 will be presented today by Prof. Andrey Chorbanov at a scientific forum. This is the World Congress of Vaccines, in which Prof. Chorbanov will participate online with a report to present the first prototype of the Bulgarian vaccine, funded by the Pasteur Institute - Paris, said in an interview with BTA Prof. Penka Petrova - Director of the Institute in Microbiology "Stefan Angelov" of BAS.
She explained that the first prototype of the Bulgarian vaccine against COVID-19 is a collection of short peptides packaged in lipid nanoparticles. The vaccine is multi-epitope and targets many antigens in the coronavirus. The project with the Pasteur Institute is coming to an end. The obtained scientific results are good and significant and can already be announced. Therefore, Prof. Andrey Chorbanov will present at this forum the achievements of the team for the development of the Bulgarian vaccine against COVID-19 so far.
Prof. Petrova announced that "we do not have a vaccine in a vial that can be administered to humans." Intensive experiments with laboratory mice are forthcoming, after which it will be clear whether the vaccine is safe and effective. However, in order to be approved for use in humans, it is necessary to undergo the next Phases 1, 2 and 3 of clinical trials, explained the director of the Institute of Microbiology of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. "We cannot currently answer any of these questions regarding the safety and efficacy of the future vaccine, but as a scientific product, the development is reliable. If in the future a pharmaceutical company undertakes to do the phases of research on its action in humans, it will already be possible to talk about an available vaccine against COVID-19 ", said Prof. Petrova.
More than 280 vaccines against COVID-19 are being developed worldwide
More than 280 vaccines against COVID-19 are currently being developed worldwide, 245 of which have entered the clinical trial phase, said the director of the Institute of Microbiology. However, Prof. Petrova clarified that "a very large part of these vaccines subsequently do not reach production because they are not safe or have a high percentage of side effects." Some of these vaccines, which are currently being developed in the world, are not effective because a vaccine with an efficiency below 50 percent is not justified to produce and administer, since mRNA vaccines guarantee over 95-96 percent efficiency, commented Prof. Penka Petrova .
According to her, the economic element related to how much a dose of a vaccine would cost in order for a pharmaceutical company to engage in its production is also important. "We have to answer three questions: how safe is the Bulgarian vaccine for humans, how effective is it and hence - whether it makes sense to apply, as well as whether it is economically viable to produce and to what extent," explained the microbiologist. All this is yet to be clarified, the Institute of Microbiology of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences is a scientific organization and has done its job to develop the vaccine, which is related to the Pasteur Institute, said the director.
How will the COVID-19 pandemic develop in our country when we have a low percentage of vaccinated people in Bulgaria?
Due to the low vaccination rate in Bulgaria, as well as due to the start of the school year in schools and universities, which ultimately leads to more infections, a new partial lockdown will most likely be required. We do not have a large percentage of vaccinated population that would allow the granting of health measures, said Prof. Penka Petrova.
According to her, "we are now in the middle of the fourth wave of COVID-19, but now the wave passes differently than last year. Now there are more deaths and this is understandable, as the vaccination coverage of the country is very low. Only Bulgaria and Romania have such a low vaccination rate against COVID-19 in Europe, and it has already been proven that vaccines protect against severe course and death. In our country now vaccinated are 22 percent, and even in Romania are 33 percent." said Prof. Penka Petrova. She said it was difficult to predict the development of the pandemic so far, as even mathematical forecasts were being adjusted according to new data.
How long will new variants of COVID-19 continue to appear in the world?
New variants of COVID-19 will continue to appear around the world, because it is a natural process of evolution of the genomes of coronaviruses, explained the director of the Institute of Microbiology "Stefan Angelov" of BAS. There will be new variants of COVID-19, which have more or less genetic differences, this is inevitable, but there is no new strain, said Prof. Petrova.
The current variant of Delta, which dominates, is more contagious and easier to spread. "There is no connection between the mutations of the virus and the vaccinations, in my opinion," said Prof. Penka Petrova. There are various theories, and some doctors are of the opinion that the virus's attempt to "avoid" vaccines causes more mutations, but my opinion is that this is not the case and that the mutation is a natural and random process. On the contrary, a large percentage of unvaccinated population would lead to more mutations, as potentially an individual could be infected by different viral variants and their genomes combined in one organism, "explained Prof. Petrova.
When asked how long the COVID-19 pandemic will last, the director of the Institute of Microbiology of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences answered that according to a number of scientists, the coronavirus pandemic will be limited worldwide by the end of next summer. Previous such pandemics have lasted for two years, and we expect a reverse process in which we will see a reduction in the incidence of COVID-19 - worldwide.
There is a possibility that COVID-19 will become a seasonal flu and "return in the fall," said Prof. Penka Petrova. She clarified that all winter colds are caused by coronaviruses, and in winter about 50 different coronaviruses circulate in Europe. I hope that the causative agent of COVID-19 will join this group and will reduce its virulence due to acquired public immunity to it, said the director of the Institute of Microbiology of BAS.
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