As Covid-19 spreads from the coronavirus pandemic, many are doing their part by social distancing and self-isolating. But as the virus and disease progress, one big question on many people’s minds is, what can we expect with regards to a Coronavirus Vaccine?
So, there are a ton of fascinating things happening right now and tireless research looking into a vaccine. But in order to understand it, we must first talk about how vaccines work. It was in the year 1796 that the first official vaccine was created by Edward Jenner. He took a bit of the cowpox virus and injected it into a small boy. He later was able to confirm that that boy did not develop smallpox, which was a related virus. So, how exactly did this work?
Immune System – Coronavirus vaccine
Typically, when you get infected with a virus, it begins taking over your cell’s machinery in order to make copies of itself. But these actions eventually trigger an immune response. Your body begins creating special cells like a macrophage, B cells, and T cells, that not only try and destroy the pathogen but also store information about it. What it looks like, the best way to defeat it, and more.
This part is especially important because if the virus ever comes back again, your body can be immediately prepared to attack it. But the body takes time to do all of this, and so, if a virus gets enough of a head starter attacks somebody with a compromised immune system, it can gain the upper hand, leading to illness or death. This is where vaccines come in.
How the Coronavirus vaccine should work?
There are many different types, but the goal of them all is to prep and train your immune system before you get an infection. It’s like a practice run. That way, when your body is invaded by the real virus, it has an advantage because it already knows how to take down the invaders. Most vaccines work by injecting some aspect of a virus or bacteria into your bloodstream, depending on what strain you’re trying to protect against. We’re gonna focus on viruses today.
Once administered into the bloodstream, even though it’s not the real virus, the body reacts as though it’s a real threat. macrophages engulf the pieces, allowing T cells to recognize and bind the foreign antigen, causing them to replicate into all different kinds of immune cells and trigger something called memory cells.
These stick around even after the body is done fighting, and it’s these memory cells that allow for a quick response if and when the real virus shows up. The effectiveness of vaccines has allowed us to nearly eradicate diseases like measles, until, of course, the recent vaccine-hesitant movement in which kind of came back.
Regardless, they are extremely powerful tools to provide immunity to the individual and to protect larger communities, and, in our ever-connected world, all of humanity. Now there is more than one type of vaccine. Live attenuated vaccines like measles, mumps, and rubeola introduce weaker or asymptomatic forms of the virus into your body, which are very effective but can’t be given to people with compromised immune systems. Inactive vaccines like polio or hepatitis Ause dead pathogens that have been killed by heat or chemicals.
These can be used on people with already weakened immune systems.However, they aren’t great for long-lasting immunity because they don’t simulate the real thing quite, as well as live attenuated vaccines and, often require several doses. Subunit vaccines like hepatitis B or influenza use a specific protein or carbohydrate from the pathogen that will still trigger an immune response.
There are some other experimental DNA vaccines, but perhaps the most relevant is a promising new technique of vaccines called mRNA vaccines, which you may have heard about recently. That’s because they are currently in development and have begun testing on humans to potentially fight the spread of Covid-19.
The private company Moderna has created a vaccine called mRNA-1273 and has enlisted 45 healthy adults to start receiving the vaccine. This is unprecedented because they’ve skipped the typical years of animal testing and instead are doing it at the same time as their human trials.
Experts believe they received permission because they’re not actually inserting a modified virus into individuals, but rather a sequence that codes for the tiny protein spikes that are on the virus that connect with human cells. The hope is that this mRNA will get processed in your cells and have them making the spike-like protein that will be on the virus, which would then trigger your immune system to kick into action and ultimately have your body prepared for when the real thing happens.
SARS virus – Coronavirus vaccine
They were able to get ahead on building this thing because of Chinese scientists who sequenced the genetic material of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19. This information was publicly released in January which has helped labs around the world start to test and build out vaccines. SARS-CoV-2 shares between 80 to 90%of its genetic material with SARS, the virus we know about from 2003. Both consist of a strip of ribonucleic acid inside a spherical protein capsule that is covered in spikes.
This means that some of the vaccine information is able to take up where the SARS vaccine left off, and I know we have said that they have already started to give this to humans but this is only to test safety, to make sure there are no negative effects, and to see if it actually creates the antibodies. Clinical trials usually take place in three phases, and the first phase is to test for safety and make sure there are no negative adverse effects.
The second phase is to test for efficacy, and usually, you give it to a larger amount of people in a place where the disease has taken hold. For example, they’re doing it right now in Seattle. The third phase is to continue this testing a larger expansion, now looking at thousands of people.
If the vaccine does appear to be safe, Moderna is gonna ask the FDA to move on to the second phase before the first phase has technically even finished. You can start to imagine how long this is going to take. As you give people these experimental vaccines, you can’t just then give them the virus and the disease.
You have to let them go out and live their lives and see what happens when they may be contracted when they maybe don’t. You have to look at tested individuals next to control groups, people who didn’t get the vaccine, and start to see what happens. Does it even work, does it make people unhealthy, does it do nothing? For example, in 2004, when a SARS vaccine was being tested, vaccinated ferrets developed damaging inflammation in their lungs after being infected with the virus. Approval can be accelerated if regulators have approved similar products before, which is how the flu vaccine is so well designed and modulated to be updated yearly.
The SARS-CoV-2 viruses a novel pathogen in humans, which means many of the technologies that are being used to develop the vaccine are relatively untested. There are hundreds of labs all around the worldmaking amazing headway when it comes to treatment and vaccines, some even repurposing SARS vaccine research and hoping to start clinical trials in the spring.Shout out to the Canadian scientists who isolated the SARS-CoV-2 virus which will inevitably help in terms of finding treatments and vaccine going into the future.- Truthfully, it usually takes decades to make a vaccine.
Every stage takes time, from sequencing the genome to isolating the virus, to testing in vitro, to then testing in animals, going from mice to non-human primates, to starting those phases we talked about earlier. Phase one for safety, phase two for efficacy, phase three for expanding it out, before even asking for a license, and then thinking about how to make enough of the vaccine for an entire population. All of this to say that experts believe that with record-breaking time we can get a coronavirus vaccine within one to two years.
Some hopeful people who think on the bright side of life and are actually thinking about some of these more experimental ways of making vaccines think we can get one as early as eight months and some more conservative estimates have it at longer than two years. Even the vaccine that’s already gone into human trials, the one we talked about from Seattle, the company Moderna, that is likely still going to take a year.
It’s also important to remember that it’s a private company and, therefore, they have private interests, so these really exciting headlines do in fact help their stock. Either way, these short timelines come with risk, not to mention that many countries around the world are trying to develop their own versions of these vaccines and if they get somewhere they’re going to inoculate their own populations first. It will be a long time before we have a vaccine that is able to be used on the world’s population. We say all this not to discourage people but to help understand realistic timelines.
We even have some friends that have said things like, “Oh, we’ll be out of this once they get a vaccine” in a couple of weeks.”And it’s like, it doesn’t work like that. Might we create therapeutics and relief for those who are infected? Yes. And might we see a record-time vaccine that comes out? That’s totally a possibility as well. But we can’t count on it to solve our immediate issues. And is it possible that we may never see a Covid-19 vaccine?
That is a possibility as well.- It all really emphasizes the constant need for research and funding of the sciences. After the SARS epidemic of 2003 sort of died down, a lot of that research and funding money was taken out of that vaccine, which is disappointing because all of that research and money, if we had continued to fund it, would have been extremely helpful right now.There is now the SARS vaccine because once it died down that research and funding were cut.
When this pandemic eventually dies down, we need to remember our lessons of the past, which is that we need to continue to fund science and research and make sure that when these things happen again we are more prepared. We’ll say it now and we’ll say it again, and that is that you need to vote for science.
You need to elect politicians who believe in science and who listen to scientists when it comes to policy.- In the meantime, this is why it’s so important that we physically distance and self-isolation order to flatten the curve, wash your hands regularly and thoroughly, and keep looking to legitimate sources to keep updated on news and information as well as advice.
This is an unprecedented time and it is such an important moment in history for science communication. We really think it’s amazing how many people have made videos out there, how everyone has sort of taken to Twitter and Instagram to try and disseminate proper scientific information, and for that reason we are thankful. I think we should also send a huge thank you to everyone on the front lines of this, whether it’s healthcare workers. Greg’s sister is literally a respiratory therapist. – Yeah, she runs ventilators.
Truly one of the most important people in the world right now.- And we really wanna see that there grocery store workers and clerks, there’s scientists and researchers, there’s everyone working at hospitals, and so many more that have such important roles, and we appreciate you so much.- If you have any questions, let us know in the comments.
This is what we are gonna be working on right now. For the foreseeable future.- I mean, science communication is something we love, we’ve been doing it for eight years, but right now we’re like, okay, we need to make sure that people are getting the right information and we have the ability to do that. Was that enough of those? We’ll see you soon for a New World News. This is Pushkar on Lnhax.com, See you guys. Peace.