You might already know this, but vaccines are devised to train the body’s immune system to recognise and attack foreign viruses and bacteria. Therefore, if the body is subjected to the virus, the body immediately fights off the germs preventing infection.
- Inactivated virus – these vaccines use a weakened version of the virus in order to trigger an immune response without causing disease.
- Protein-based vaccines – contain benign pieces of proteins that copy the COVID-19 virus.
- Viral vector vaccines – use a genetically engineered virus to produce COVID-19 proteins without causing the disease.
- RNA and DNA vaccines – this modern approach uses genetically engineered RNA or DNA to generate a protein which emulates the disease.
Ever since the outbreak, the World Health Organization (WHO) has partnered up with scientists around the world to help coordinate the overall procedures involving vaccines. The organization estimates there will be a vaccine by early to mid-2021, but before distribution starts, vaccines have to be proven safe and effectual in phase III clinical trials.
Afterwards, the WHO needs independent reviews on evidence on efficacy and safety in addition to regulative reviews and approval from manufacturing countries, to consider the vaccine a prequalified product. Finally, SAGE, an external board of specialists, analyses the results from clinical trials and proof on the disease – such as affected age group, risk factors, and any other relevant information – in order to make a recommendation for use. This complex method allows countries to decide on the implementation and regulation of the domestic use of vaccines.
But, will a vaccine stop the pandemic?
This actually depends on several factors, such as the effectiveness of the vaccines, their accessibility and how many people get vaccinated. It is believed that in order to halt the virus, between 60 and 70% of the world’s population will have to be immune. As of today, it is still too early to know if the coronavirus vaccines will effectively provide long-term immunity. Nonetheless, a COVID-19 vaccine would make this unpredictable disease a preventable one; as 20 other life-threatening diseases. Currently, there are more than 100 COVID-19 vaccines in the works, with only a handful undergoing the human trial phase. The following are those closest to approval:
The light at the end of the tunnel appeared once the alliance published its initial results. In which approximately 43,000 people were vaccinated, and revealed the vaccine’s 95% efficacy rate. This efficacy rate decreases to just 94% in candidates over 65.
Not long after Pfizer/BioNTech published their results, the UK ordered 40 million doses; 10 million are scheduled to arrive by the end of 2020. According to the companies, the vaccine is given in two shots, three weeks apart. It must be said that it is a very delicate vaccine, since it needs to be stored at around -70C.
The American company took a different approach to its trials. Testing over 30,000 candidates, half the people got injected with the vaccine while the other half got placebo shots. This approach took into consideration the placebo effect and yet, the real vaccine proved to be 94.5% efficient.
In distinction to the Pfizer vaccine, Moderna’s is given in two doses, four weeks apart and may be stored at -20C. What’s more, the therapeutics enterprise expects to produce between 500 million and 1 billion doses in 2021. The UK predicts to receive 5 million doses by this upcoming spring.
Uniquely, this specific vaccine appears to prompt a strong immune response in older age groups. Although it remains in phase two results, peer-reviewed and published at present, the United Kingdom has already ordered 100 million doses. Oxford’s vaccine is given in two doses and has shown to protect 99% of candidates two weeks after the final injection.
The partnership took a traditional approach when engineering the viral vector vaccine, made from a weakened version of chimpanzees’ common cold virus. An approach that has made it the easiest Covid-19 vaccine to distribute, after all it may be stored in fridge-like temperatures.
The real question here is, who will get vaccinated first?
Matter of fact, people respond differently to immunisation; and as history has continuously proven, vaccines may be less successful in older immune systems. However, age is a Covid-19 prime risk factor. Therefore, countries like UK have made older care home residents and staff a top priority, along with health care providers, hospital personnel and people over 80. Even so, this will all depend on the availability of vaccines, age group effectiveness and the spread of the coronavirus disease.