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News of a possible vaccine against the coronavirus has hit the headlines across the globe. The first effective coronavirus vaccine can prevent more than 90% of people from getting COVID-19, a preliminary analysis shows. The developers, Pfizer and BioNTech, are a joint American and German effort.

But these two countries are not the only ones currently busy trying to provide a vaccine to halt the health pandemic.

So too is Kazakhstan which, while not quite at the same stage at Pfizer, is at the forefront of such efforts.

The Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine has been tested on 43,500 people in six countries and no safety concerns have been raised. The companies plan to apply for emergency approval to use the vaccine by the end of the month.

No vaccine has gone from the drawing board to being proven highly effective in such a short period of time.

Scientists in Kazakhstan hope to be the next.

In August, the World Health Organization included the Kazakh vaccine against COVID-19 in the list of approved for clinical trials. These means they are allowed pre  clinical trial tests.

The list includes 33 vaccines from 19 countries: Great Britain, China, Russia, USA, Germany, Japan, India, South Korea, Belgium, Sweden, Singapore, Italy, Australia, Taiwan, Cuba, France, Austria and Canada.

Kazakhstan’s Education and Science Minister Askhat Aimagambetov says the trials of the QazCovid-in vaccine have been completed and “gave good results”.

The vaccine was developed by the Kazakhstan Scientific Research Institute for Biological Safety Problems on the basis of a virus strain isolated from patients in Kazakhstan. Administering the vaccine in large doses, the centre tested its safety, side effects, and allergic reactions, among other impacts, paving the way for human trials.

The institute’s director, Kunsulu Zakarya  said volunteers were in good health and scientists were continuing their work on five platforms for developing a COVID-19 candidate vaccine. The vaccine passed the first preclinical human trials on August 20 and the National Scientific Center of Phthisiopulmonology is conducting the second stage of the vaccine study.

If successful, it is believed that there will be 60 million doses of vaccines made available per year to cover the domestic market and export supplies.

COVID-19 vaccine development is one of the priorities for the Kazakh government and the Ministry of Education and Science allocated additional funds for the material and technical equipment of the Institute.

Volunteers aged 18 to 50 have taken part in the first and second phases of clinical trials. The institute received 688 applications for the clinical trials.

A total of 44 volunteers who have not had COVID-19 and did not have antibodies took part in the first stage. Two hundred volunteers started to participate in the second stage to study immunogenicity in mid-October. The clinical trials are planned to be completed in December and the third stage of vaccine trials will last until 2021.

The Ministry of Healthcare has identified risk groups for vaccination coverage.

This includes people with chronic diseases aged 60 and older, medical workers and teachers. The preliminary number of people that will be subject to vaccination is 2.8 million people, or 15 percent of the total population. It is estimated that for all such groups to be covered would require 5.6 million vaccine doses.

There are around a dozen vaccines in the final stages of testing – known as a phase 3 trial – but this is the first to show any results.

It uses a completely experimental approach – that involves injecting part of the virus’s genetic code – in order to train the immune system.

Previous trials have shown the vaccine trains the body to make both antibodies – and another part of the immune system called T-cells to fight the coronavirus.

There are still huge challenges ahead but the announcement about the Pfizer trials  and ongoing efforts by Kazakhstan have been warmly welcomed.

A vaccine – alongside better treatments – is seen as the best way of getting out of the restrictions that have been imposed on all our lives.

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