Vaccines for Coronavirus: A Quick Update

A large majority of the human world is in some stage of lock-down or social restrictions or the other. The world as we knew it a few months ago has ceased to exist. We are scared of stepping outside our homes, children and the elderly are confined indoors, those who step out follow many restrictive guidelines including maintaining a physical distance of 2 meters and wearing a mask. 

Q. What will bring life back to normal- the way it was?

A reliable, effective, and safe Vaccine!

Never in the Scientific or Healthcare Industry was there such a scramble for something so precious!

Never has so much money been pledged and so much global co-ordination been done, in such a quick time as for the development of a safe and effective vaccine against the dreadful Coronavirus which is rushing through country after country wreaking havoc and destruction in its path. Destroying lives and livelihoods has brought the human world to its knees.

What is a Vaccine?

There are many strategies used in vaccine making, the idea being to introduce a weaker, attenuated strain of a bug to induce an artificial immunity that will work against the actual bug when it strikes the body.

Vaccines against Tuberculosis, Mumps, Measles, Chicken Pox, Rubella, Hepatitis, etc have been available for a long time and are in regular use. They have prevented millions of children and adults from falling prey to these dangerous infections, some of them with horrible complications.

Vaccine Against the Coronavirus

Currently, there is no known vaccine against the Coronavirus, and to be honest, we are not sure when, if ever, we will have a safe and effective vaccine. 

There are, however, some leading contenders; and these are – 

1. Moderna has used messenger RNAs to produce good antibody response in human subjects and the stage 3 trial has started. If successful there could be a vaccine by the end of this year or early next year (2021).

2. Oxford University/ Astra Zeneca- a virus has been dressed with the Protein spike of the Corona Virus to create an antibody response. There is a possibility it may be ready by later this year – 2020.

3. CanSino – a combination of Canada and China (CanSino) – a replication-deficient strain of a mutant virus has been used. May have been already introduced in the Chinese military.

Though there are many other trials being conducted let me touch upon the Indian scenario –

4. Bharat Biotech has started human trials for its Covaxin.

5. Serum Institute of India – The world’s largest Vaccine maker, has tied up with the Oxford University study. They hope to have a vaccine by the year-end.

So, the race is on – the most eagerly watched race ever before in the world.

The problems with a vaccine against the Coronavirus – 

– There is credible evidence that infected individuals retain antibodies (IgG) for a few months only. So, if the infection produces an Immunity for only a few months, how will the vaccine protect for a prolonged period?

– In our hurry to produce a Vaccine we may compromise on the safety profile of the vaccine – and this has happened with vaccines in the past. 

– Even if a vaccine is available how will we ensure equitable distribution of the vaccine for the global population?

Here’s hoping for an early safe effective vaccine.

Till then:

– Maintain a safe distance

– Strengthen natural immunity

– Wear a mask

– Wash hands frequently

Stay safe and healthy!

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