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COVID-19 Vaccine Series Launch Heralds New Era of Research

Aug 10, 2021 10:15:00 AM / by Nancy Andon, MSc

AdobeStock_425662733-2The COVID-19 pandemic upended daily lives around the world. Now that we have working vaccines, a new phase has begun in the battle against the deadly virus. Scientists are striving to gather in-depth information about vaccine immune response.

Data collected at the University of Oxford [1] shows that approximately 30.0% of the world population has received at least one COVID-19 vaccine, while just over 15.5% are fully vaccinated. Less developed countries lag far behind more developed nations in their vaccination rates. Only 1.1% of people in low-income countries have received at least one vaccine dose, while the most developed nations are now reaching vaccination rates of 60-70% of their population. [1] And even while countries race to vaccinate as many people against COVID-19 as possible, new strains of the virus are emerging, while vaccine hesitancy slows the global effort to eradicate the disease.

For scientists, hesitancy about becoming vaccinated may be hard to understand. But for people without a background in immunology (which is to say, most of us), it can be difficult to separate good information from misinformation, or to fully understand how the vaccine works, even when reliable information is available.

Part of the solution to this dilemma lies in educational outreach – ensuring trustworthy information [2] is easily available to combat hearsay and making sure it comes across in a format that almost anyone can understand. The long-term solution is improved understanding of both COVID-19 itself and the vaccine immune response. Scientists are working hard to find the answers to several important questions, including how much long-term protection the COVID-19 vaccine offers, and whether it might eventually need to be updated to counter new strains of the virus. [3]

Scientists accomplished an incredible feat by delivering a safe, effective vaccine against this deadly disease in record time. Of necessity, this meant pushing timelines forward as quickly as it was safe to do so. Most FDA-approved drugs take over a decade to move from the discovery stage to clinical approval. This ensures that full-scale clinical studies are carried out, and that there is ample time for long-term safety data to be collected and thoroughly examined.

With millions of innocent lives at stake, this course of action was simply not feasible. Amid unprecedented global support and intense research, COVID-19 manufacturers Pfizer and Moderna became the first to demonstrate to the FDA and other global regulatory agencies that their vaccines were safe and effective beyond any reasonable doubt. However, the accelerated vaccine development timeline resulted in gaps in knowledge that still need to be addressed. As with the development of the vaccines themselves, finding answers requires reliable access to COVID-19-related donor materials.

Access to products like COVID-19 convalescent plasma and anti-SARS-CoV-2 T cells gave researchers the tools they needed to develop a vaccine, and these tools remain critical to scientists in unraveling the immune response to COVID-19. Now biotech partners HemaCare and Cellero, with the support of Charles River Laboratories, will combine resources to launch an all-new line of products designed to play a direct and pivotal role in advancing our understanding of the immune response to COVID-19 vaccines. The COVID-19 vaccinated sample time series will provide scientists with matched sets of cellular products from individual healthy donors with no prior COVID-19 infection who have been administered a COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson.

COVID-19 Vaccine Time Series sets will include the following material from each donor, as shown in the schematic below:

COVID-19 Vaccine Intro Blog_Fig2

Figure 1: Vaccinated Donor Plasma, Serum, or PBMCs: Healthy donor material (plasma, serum, or PBMCs) are collected and cryopreserved from individual donors, with no prior COVID-19 infection, before receiving a COVID-19 vaccination. Repeat donor-matched collections are carried out 10-30 days after the first COVID-19 vaccine administration, and 10-30 days after the second vaccine administration (when applicable) and cryopreserved.

The COVID-19 vaccine series of products will promote understanding of the immune response to vaccination, including changes in immune activity over time, and vaccine efficacy among donors with different physiological or demographic characteristics. It will also allow access to more informed educational material, potentially helping combat vaccine hesitancy. Most importantly, a more in-depth understanding of the COVID-19 vaccine immune response will inevitably lead to better treatments and outcomes for patients worldwide.

Please visit HemaCare’s website to learn more about our COVID-19 catalog of products and our comprehensive portfolio of cell therapy products and services.

References:

  1. Statistics and Research: Coronavirus (COVID-19) Vaccinations. Our World in Data. June 21, 2021. Data is updated daily.
  2. Community-Based Organizations COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit: Educating Communities on the Importance of COVID-19 Vaccines. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. May 2021.
  3. About Variants of the Virus that Causes COVID-19​​. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. June 2021.

Topics: Cryopreservation, PBMCs, Serum, Plasma

Nancy Andon, MSc

Written by Nancy Andon, MSc

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