SARS-CoV-2, a virus that causes coronavirus disease 19 (COVID-19), has spread rapidly from the first known cases in China in December 2019 to countries around the world.
On 10 March 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that 113,702 confirmed cases of COVID-19 were reported worldwide, plus 4,012 deaths.
In response to this global health crisis, researchers are working to create a coronavirus vaccine as soon as possible.
Read more about the production of vaccines and the potential timeline in this article.
Researchers who are striving to develop a coronavirus vaccine are working tiredsly with different approaches, which includes:
- Whole virus vaccine
- Recombinant protein subunit vaccine
- Antibody vaccine
- Nucleic acid vaccine
This sections will discuss these approaches in more detail.
Whole Virus Vaccine
Whole virus vaccines use damaged or dead virus types that cause the disease.
They may be effective in providing immunity in the long run, but there is a chance that some people may experience symptoms of illness as a result of vaccination.
Reports indicate that Johnson & Johnson, Codagenix, and researchers at the University of Hong Kong are working on this type of vaccine.
Recombinant Protein Subunit Vaccine
Recombinant protein subunit vaccines do not have the risk of causing infection in people receiving them because they do not contain any live pathogens.
Researchers are investigating whether or not a recombinant protein subunit vaccine that targets a protein called a spike (S-) protein can be made. The new coronavirus uses the S-protein to bind and infect cells.
This method is being used by Novavax, Clover Biopharmaceuticals, Queensland University, and a group led by Texas Children’s Hospital for Vaccine Development to create a coronavirus vaccine.
Other researchers are researching whether or not they can create a vaccine using SARS antibodies that started in 2002.
SARS has many similarities to COVID-19, as it is caused by related coronaviruses.
Till date, scientists have shown that antibodies that neutralize the SARS-causing virus can also restrict how well the current coronavirus infects cells in laboratory studies.
Nucleic Acid Vaccines
Nucleic acid vaccines inject genetic material, such as DNA or RNA, into a live host. The cells that contain the new nucleic acid then create the proteins that have been translated into the DNA or RNA that they present to the immune system.
Although the process is complex, nucleic acid vaccines allow the immune system to control different pathogens.
Using nucleic acids such as DNA or RNA to provide immunity is a promising method, but to date, this strategy is only used in veterinary medicine.
Nevertheless, researchers say that three companies are looking to produce coronavirus vaccines using this approach: Inovio Pharmaceuticals, Moderna Therapeutics and Curevac.
When is it ready?
Predictions for how long it will take to develop a coronavirus vaccine vary widely, depending on whether the person making the prediction is a scientist, official, or businessman.
Both policymakers and manufacturers have indicated that a coronavirus vaccine should be available within months.
However, on the basis of their knowledge and experience, scientists say that they are creating a coronavirus vaccine:
If the timeline for the production and distribution of coronavirus vaccine seems to be lengthy, it is because there are several measures in place to ensure that it is safe and effective.
Basically, as soon as researchers create a new vaccine, prospective manufacturers will submit an Application to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for an Investigational New Drug Application that defines the drug, the manufacturing process and its effectiveness in animal testing.
In the next step, the following sequence of clinical trials must be successfully completed by the vaccine:
- Phase I: It tests the efficacy of the vaccine and the ability to generate an immune system response in a small group of people.
- Phase II: This tests many people, possibly hundreds, to determine the right dosage levels.
- Phase III: Thousands of people are tested for the safety and efficacy of the drug.
In The Meantime, What Treatment Exist?
There are no clear medications for the treatment of COVID-19. Treatment should concentrate on alleviating symptoms as a person recovers.
Antibiotics can not treat COVID-19 as they are intended for bacterial infections and have no effect on viruses such as coronavirus.
However, some researchers are looking at recurrent existing drugs, including antibiotics, as treatments for COVID-19. Read more about this.
Public health experts and medical professionals also recommend that people with disease try to stay away from others during their recovery.
Public health measures which limit the spread of infection include:
- Rapid testing and identification of sick people
- Isolation of people with COVID-19
- Social isolation, such as closing schools and businesses and canceling large gatherings
Various methods have been implemented by different governments and organisations to limit the spread of coronavirus.
People who think they have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 and develop symptoms such as fever, cough, or difficulty breathing should contact their doctor, according to the CDC.
The most important thing that people with mild forms of disease can do is to ensure that they limit contact with others, especially older adults and those with compromised immune systems.
Some people with COVID-19 will need medical treatment, and some may need to stay in the hospital.
Before seeing a doctor or going to a hospital, however, a person should call the facility to alert them to the presence of someone who may have COVID-19. Wear a face mask on the way, too.
How Are The Vaccines Works?
Vaccines work by allowing the immune system to make antibodies to protect the body against a specific disease, as if they had it.
The trick is to do this without actually making a person sick.
After a person is vaccinated, they develop immunity to the disease, which ensures that their bodies would be able to fight it if they had ever been exposed to it.
The immune system must be activated by an effective vaccine, but not caused by an overdrive. Finding the right balance between an effective vaccine and one that does not cause undesired side effects is a challenge for all vaccines under development.
During a health emergency, when speed is vital, this may be the most significant factor in slowing down the development of a safe new vaccine.
Vaccines must also be safe for different groups of people to use, including young children, older adults, health care workers and individuals with underlying health conditions.
To protect themselves and others from coronavirus, people may try:
- Always wash their hands with soap and hot water for at least 20 seconds.
- Using a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 per cent alcohol, unless it is not possible to wash hands.
- Covering sneezes and coughing into an elbow.
- Not touch their faces regularly
- Clean surfaces that people frequently touch.
- Limiting or avoiding handshakes.
- Staying home if sick.
COVID-19 is still a major health concern as doctors and researchers work to develop successful preventive measures, such as vaccines.
Until the vaccine is available, people can protect themselves and others by following advice from public health and medical experts.