Numerous research teams around the world are rushing to develop a coronavirus vaccine as the disease continues to spread globally. Despite the fact that the world's brightest minds are involved in the case, however, a vaccine is still months away, potentially even years if there was no such commitment.
The coronavirus outbreak, known as COVID-19, is now widespread in over 150 countries with over 180.000 confirmed cases. These huge numbers make it one of the worst pandemics that have ever appeared on the planet. We are without natural immunity and with limited understanding of how the virus survives. For this numerous vaccine projects against coronavirus are under construction.
How a vaccine works
Vaccines inject weakened or killed portions of the virus so that the body can learn the best way to fight it without the virus taking control of the body.
The idea is that once the disease or virus recurs, the body will have learned what to do and will be able to fight it quickly. This is why many deadly and infectious diseases, such as polio and smallpox, have been virtually wiped out of the world. But it spends time manufacturing a vaccine before it is mass-distributed.
Professor Ian henderson, a microbiology expert at the University of Queensland, explained that there are a number of aspects to consider, such as how the vaccine affects different age groups and whether it can be produced in large quantities.
"An effective vaccine must strengthen immunity to the infectious agent and must sustain protection for long periods. The vaccine must protect the groups of people most at risk such as the elderly," said Professor Henderson.
But care must be taken that the potential vaccine causes the right immune responses instead of producing an excessive and harmful response. A real "immunopathology".
Finally, vaccine antigens must be able to be produced in large quantities.
Even in the case of seasonal flu, which returns every year with a modified strain, a vaccine takes months to produce.
"It is produced in millions of doses every year using an established process", said Professor Henderson. "However, even with production routes and safety and efficacy procedures already established, it takes 6 months to produce."
There are already 15 potential coronavirus vaccines, but ...
... many of them will take at least six months before they are ready for human testing. Even the one just started on human tests (in the photo the volunteer to whom it was administered) will have to go into production if successful. We will need to procure all the necessary resources and produce it for those affected, which could be millions by then. All of this takes time.
For COVID-19 which is part of the same family of MERS and SARS, however, scientists are examining existing vaccines of previously known viruses and seeing if they can be applied to this virus.
"Given the genetic correlation of the viruses, there may be some cross-protection from the use of a SARS / MERS vaccine pending the COVID-19 vaccine.", says Professor Henderson. 'However, this approach would require careful monitoring of small groups of vaccinated individuals in areas where there is active transmission of the current virus.'
In other words, healthy people should be "sent" around to see if after receiving this experimental vaccine they become infected or not.
There are four "ready-made" vaccines.
Professor Henderson said there are four potential SARS / MERS vaccines undergoing clinical trials. So far they have been found safe, but their effectiveness was not complete at this stage.
So for now, we don't rely on a coronavirus vaccine. We rely on ourselves.
For now, it's just a battle of nerves, with focused measures on the flattening of the infection curve. Whether it's for an antiviral, whether it's from "natural death" or after a coronavirus vaccine, when this pandemic finally passes, hopefully there is a nice reminder. A nice reminder, yes, for future governments: to always be ready for the omnipresent threat of unknown infectious diseases.
"This epidemic will eventually run out and, as history shows, people's memories of the scale and difficulties posed by the current epidemic will gradually fade.", said Professor Henderson.
"However, we must not forget the lessons learned from this crisis. The lessons learned now will provide a roadmap for responding to future outbreaks."