Coronavirus Vaccine: Is A One-Hundred-Year-Old Shot The Answer?
As the world effectively shuts down due to the coronavirus, cases are still growing. Despite first social distancing, then self-isolation and now in some cases, a total lockdown, the virus continues to spread.
At the same time however, a number of scientific institutions are working on creating a vaccine for Covid-19.
Laura Spinney, writing in The Guardian reports: “About 35 companies and academic institutions are racing to create such a vaccine, at least four of which already have candidates they have been testing in animals.”
One such company, Moderna, is beginning human trials immediately.
Based on infecting a person with a weakened version of a virus so that their body develops the necessary antibodies to fight it off, traditional vaccines are not quick to make. Early estimates suggested it would take at least 18 months for a viable coronavirus vaccine to be developed.
At least three phases of human trialing needs to be conducted for safety and efficacy in humans, and these trials simply cannot be rushed.
The speed at which these latest vaccines are being developed is due to “vaccinologists hedging their bets”. They had predicted that if a pandemic was to come, it would be in the form of a flu not a coronavirus, but after coronavirus related Sars and Mers outbreaks in 2002 and 2012 respectively, work had begun on “prototype pathogens.”
This is still a long process, though. Ed Yong, writing in The Atlantic says that “No matter which strategy is faster, [Seth] Berkley [head of the vaccine alliance, Gavi] and others estimate that it will take 12 to 18 months to develop a proven vaccine, and then longer still to make it, ship it, and inject it into people’s arms.”
Elsewhere, scientists are looking at ways to help the body’s immune system fight the virus more effectively.
According to Bloomberg , a century-old Tuberculosis vaccine is being given to health care workers in Melbourne, Australia to see if it can prevent them from getting coronavirus or COVID-19.
You might know the vaccine, it’s called a Bacillus Calmette-Guerin or the BCG for short. Used to protect against TB, the BCG can, according to Nigel Curtis, head of infectious diseases research at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Melbourne, “boost the immune system so that it defends better against a whole range of different infections, a whole range of different viruses and bacteria in a lot more generalized way.”
Scientists are trying to work out whether the BCG shot will help bolster our immune systems enough to help fight the virus off.
4000 health care workers are taking part in the trial which begins on Monday.
We should note that if you had a BCG shot as a child, this doesn’t mean you are immune to coronavirus.
Curtis tells Bloomberg:
“We wouldn’t be doing this if we didn’t think that this might work. We cannot guarantee that this will work. And of course, the only way to find out is with our trial.”