Covid-19 and a vaccine

By: Jayne Amelia Larson

How close are we to a vaccine and who will be the first in line to get it? What you should know about the timeline and accessibility of potential Covid vaccines

Soon after the enormity of Covid-19’s impact on our daily lives was understood and “normal” life as we knew it put on hold, attention turned toward the creation of a vaccine to stem the devastating impacts of this novel Coronavirus. According to the Mayo Clinic: “A vaccine to prevent coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) is perhaps the best hope for ending the pandemic. Currently, there is no vaccine to prevent infection with the Covid-19 virus, but researchers are racing to create one.” How fast are they “racing”? The Trump Administration’s name for this effort is Operation Warp Speed and the federal government has committed tens of millions of dollars for research to help make a vaccine a reality, promising to develop 300 million doses of SARS-CoV-2 vaccine by this fall. Then on October 2, the White House announced that both the President and the First Lady tested positive for the virus. When a tested and approved vaccine might be available is still unclear. On October 1, Stéphane Bancel, the CEO of Cam-bridge-based Moderna told the Financial Times that its exper-imental Covid-19 vaccine now in the final testing phase is not “expected to be available for wide-spread use until spring” 2021. The Washington Post has been tracking some 200 experimental vaccines that are aimed at ending the pandemic, which the newspaper called “a scientific quest moving at record-breaking speed.” By early October, at least 10 vaccines were in Phase 3 (the final testing phase) of trials tested “in thousands of people to check their effectiveness and safety,” the Post reported. One of those vac-cines is the work of researchers at Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center which has teamed up with Johnson & Johnson, according to The New York Times. The BIDMC researchers have expanded on advancements in making vaccines a decade ago that Johnson & Johnson used for developing vaccines for Ebola and other diseases. This project received $456 million from the US government to help move this vaccine toward production. In September, the Times reported, the Phase 3 trial started with up to 60,000 participants. And in August the federal government pledged $1 billion for 100 million doses if the vaccine receives approval, the Times said. Dr. John M. Crowther, animal virologist formerly of the Interna-tional Atomic Energy Association (IAEA) in Vienna, told Scene:  “Vaccines work best only if a large percentage of the population is vaccinated in a short time period. This gives the term ‘herd immu-nity’ its true meaning as gleaned from animal vaccination cam-paigns. The derived percentage of a herd population that needs to be immune to best eliminate the virus is 75 to 80 percent. Lower figures are very dangerous and would maintain the virus. If the vaccination is more sporadic, pockets of immune people min-gled with non-immune [non-vac-cinated] can be problematic in that mutation selection of viruses by the antibody pressure induced by vaccines may produce more virulent strains.” He added: “It is important to get the vaccination strategy right even with a potent vaccine. A po-tent vaccine is only 10 percent the problem, the other 90 percent is how you use it.” All of that leads up to people having faith in the process and the vaccine enough to get a vaccination. “The most important ingredient in all vaccines is trust,” said Barry Bloom, a professor of Public Health at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Bloom further noted that a vaccine will be approved when the science supports it, not by a specific date. “It’s the data, not the date,” Bloom said.W

Photo By RFBSIP, Adobe Stock

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