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Friday, April 16, 2021

Will the world ever be “back to normal”? the answer depends on COVID 19 vaccine timeline.

Will the world ever be the same as pre Covid 19 times? The answer depends on how fast COVID 19 Vaccine will be developed and how fast we can vaccinate everyone on the planet. 

We would need a miracle treatment that will affect the people positively and will further halt the outbreak. Most of the drugs used right now to treat COVID 19 are nowhere near perfect. They might have saved lives, but they aren’t enough to place the world where it was before that is back to normal. However, It is one of the most urgent tasks in humankind, which requires the creation of a safe, effective COVID 19 vaccine to create immunity against the virus. It is the need of the hour to speed up the timeline of COVID 19 vaccine. 

Covid 19 vaccine timeline
When can we expect to have a COVID 19 Vaccine?

Before we go into COVID 19 Vaccine timeline, lets see how does the immune system work, and how vaccines help our immune system work better.

There are a variety of approaches for protecting a body against any virus such as COVID-19. To understand this, let us see how the human immune system works:

When any disease enters into the system, the body responds to it by producing antibodies. These antibodies attach themselves to the surface of the microbe, which signals the body about an outside attack.  A person’s body keeps details and records about every microbe or unlike outside substance it has ever defeated and quickly recognizes and destroys the invaders.

A vaccine teaches the body how to defeat an unknown outside substance without it getting sick. 

The two common types of these vaccines are- Inactivated Vaccines that contain the pathogens that have been killed and the Live Vaccines that contain living pathogens that have been attenuated. The latter is highly effective but prone to side-effects and compared to the former one. The downside of both these traditional vaccine approaches is that they are time-consuming to make as most of the material used is biological and requires to be grown.

The modern approach talks about two different vaccine types: RNA vaccine and the DNA vaccine. The RNA and DNA vaccines are almost similar; only a different type of genetic material and method of administration is used.

So what goes in to developing a vaccine? Specifically COVID 19 Vaccine: safety and efficacy

According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, “it might take nine months to two years for developing a vaccine against corona; this might look like a long time, but this would be the fastest, that a vaccine can be developed.” Once a COVID 19 vaccine has been created, it requires to be tested for safety and efficiency in human beings. Safety means, is the vaccine safe for the people? Are there some side effects, if yes, then are they acceptable like a mild fever?

For example, let’s talk about the smallpox vaccine. The vaccine wiped out the disease from the face of the earth. However, some individuals who received the vaccine had scars on their arms. One out of three people suffered from side effects that were bad enough to keep them home from school or work. Also, a less significant number of people developed severe reactions from the vaccine. 

This is the reason why safety and efficacy are important. Since there is no time to do multi-year research, we may have to conduct robust phase 1 safety trials. 

Let’s delve deeper and understand what are the phases to check the efficiency of a vaccine. 

So what impacts the COVID 19 Vaccine timeline? The testing phases it has to go through. 

  1. Phase 1: The safety trial; here, different dosages are tried out over a small group of people to create the immune response at the lowest effective dose without having side effects.
  2. Phase 2: This phase tells you how well is the vaccine working on the intended people. Here, hundreds of people are injected with the vaccine, and these people are of different ages and with different health statuses.
  3. Phase 3: It is usually the longest phase, which includes thousands of people getting the vaccine. It is given to a group where there is a slight chance of risk of infection and waits to see if the vaccine reduces the number of how many people will get sick.

Covid 19 vaccine timeline
What goes into development and usage of the Vaccine?

If the vaccine passes through all of the above three phases, then it is sent to the World Health Organisation (WHO) and various government agencies for approval. But all this takes a lot of time, which is not good for the prevailing situation. For COVID 19 or Coronavirus vaccine, the governments and the organizations are giving their support to speed up this process. And thus, compressing the trial timeline by testing lots of different approaches at the same time.

Why we need an RNA vaccine as the COVID 19 vaccine, and how does it work?

Each body has a genetic code required to produce the antigen itself. Your immune system attacks these antigens when they appear outside the cells. This turns your body into its own vaccine manufacturing unit and prepares it to defeat the future intruders in the process. RNA Vaccines do not require much material as it is a person’s body who does most of the task. All this makes them much faster to produce. COVID 19 vaccine would be the first RNA Vaccine out, and then only we would be able to prove its working and the level of immunity it provides.

Since we require a perfect COVID vaccine for lifelong protection, safety, and efficiency, we would have to conduct a robust safety trial. For a vaccine, it is imp to be effective at least 60 percent, or else anything under it is unlikely to herd immunity to stop the virus.

Other factors that can impact effectiveness of a vaccine are:

  1. The number of dosages required: A one-time dosage vaccine is not only easier but also quicker to deliver. But, at the time, we may require multi-dose so that enough efficiency level is reached.
  2. How long does it last? A vaccine gives long-lasting protection, normally. But right now, when we are running short of time, we might end up preventing a person from getting sick for just a couple of months. If this would be the case, then we might use this while looking for a more durable form.
  3. How to store the vaccine? Most of the vaccines are kept at 4 degrees Celsius. Therefore, their storage and transportation are easy. But the RNA vaccines require freezing temperature, as low as -80 degrees Celsius. It might make it difficult to transport it in different parts of the world.

In order to get hold of the pandemic, each and every person on the planet must get the COVID vaccine. It might be difficult to reach every corner, but every effort counts.

How many people are there in the pipeline?

Till April 9, there were 115 different COVID vaccine candidates in the development pipeline.

It is necessary to get hold of the best possible vaccine and the process to store and transport them. It might take several years for everyone to have the vaccine, and thus, we should start working towards it.

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