Covid-19 Vaccine Update 2020

covid-19

As of right now, according to The New York Times, there are 23 potential vaccines in phase one, 14 in phase 2’s expanded trials, 9 in phase 3 of large-scale testing, 3 are in the fourth phase where they have been approved for limited early use, and zero have reached the fifth phase of full-use approval

Use the coronavirus vaccine tracker link below to see updated numbers.

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/science/coronavirus-vaccine-tracker.html

Worldwide, there are 142 in the pre-clinical stage, 29 in phase 1, 18 in phase 2, 9 in phase 3, and 0 approved for mass use.

As we speak, there are scientists worldwide attempting to progress vaccines and treatments to fight COVID-19. With several companies focused on antivirals in existence, others focus on vaccines to prevent the disease and its spread.

The number of cases of COVID-19 worldwide is now nearly 30 million, with over 6 million alone coming from the United States.

The most recent development was just days ago when, on the 31st of August, the third phase of AZD1222 begun. This vaccine trial will enlist 30,000 volunteers across 80 different US sites (https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/phase-3-clinical-testing-us-astrazeneca-covid-19-vaccine-candidate-begins) It’s part of Operation Warp Speed, a multi-agency approach to vanquish COVID-19. AZD1222 was developed by the Jenner Institute at Oxford University and the Oxford Vaccine Group.

As of right now, there is one approved vaccine globally. This is the Sputnik V vaccine which, while approved for use, had not yet entered the third phase of testing. This vaccine was developed in Moscow and approved by the Russian Federation on the 11th of August. However, experts have raised concerns about both its efficacy and safety, given that it is so early in the trial stage. It now has entered phase three and volunteers have been enlisted across Russian, Mexico, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, and UAE.

While there is talk, and promises, of a vaccine before the US election, come November, that remains to be seen. These drugs are still in the clinical trial phase to determine whether they are effective for fighting COVID-19. This is a necessary step to ensure a vaccine (or medication) is safe for intended use, as well as determining the correct dosage.

In reality, it could be months before we find an effective course of treatment, and even longer before we have a safe vaccine to roll out worldwide. Until then, it’s our personal responsibility to follow the advice given by experts – wear a mask, wash your hands, and social distance.

Typically, a vaccine can take a decade (or longer) to be developed. This should put into focus how much pressure there is to produce one in under a year. This is why you will see certain trials fast-tracked to later stages quicker than normal.

Of course, it’s a necessary evil. We are in need of a vaccine and many people will be unable to resume their normal lives until they have one. This, of course, could increase the risk of adverse side effects with a vaccine being rushed to market.

While many world leaders initially floated the idea of herd immunity, the experts called this insanity. To accomplish this in the United States some 60% of the population would have to get COVID-19. In America, that’s approximately 198,601,591.

The current rate of deaths, in the United States, sits at 3%, if 198,601,591 Americans caught COVID-19, then potentially 5,958,048 people would die. It’s an unbearable prospect, which is why the rush to create a working vaccine has become so great.

It may take time, but as of right now we just don’t know how long it will take. Ultimately, a vaccine is coming, now we just have to wait.

You can keep up-to-date with more coronavirus news and the latest COVID-19 vaccine updates from RAPS (https://www.raps.org/news-and-articles/news-articles/2020/3/covid-19-vaccine-tracker).

Infectious Disease: How Vaccines Work

Vaccines are designed to protect the body against pathogens, either bacteria or viruses. The University of Oxford Vaccine Group states that vaccines are used to prevent disease, unlike medications that are used to treat a disease once you have it. 

Vaccines play an important role in keeping people healthy.  Infections can cause serious and long-term damage to the body.  Infections can be deadly, and they can wipe out a large percentage of the population if they spread.  Vaccines help prevent the spread of diseases by creating herd immunity.

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How the Body Responds to Infection

When a pathogen enters the body, it attacks the cells and begins to multiply. Infection is the term for when the body has been invaded by pathogens.  As the pathogens attack, the cause a person to become ill.  The body, sensing an attack, fights back.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the immune system increased blood flow to the area where the pathogens are present. The red blood cells bring oxygen, and the white blood cells help fight the infection.  There are three types of white blood cells involved:

  • Macrophages digest pathogens and dead or dying cells.  Macrophages leave behind parts of the pathogen known as antigens.  The body recognizes the antigens as harmful and begins producing antibodies to fight them.
  • B-lymphocytes produce antibodies to fight antigens.
  • T-lymphocytes destroy cells in the body that have already been infected with a pathogen.

It usually takes the body a few days to go from identifying a pathogen to building enough defenses of white blood cells to fight and stop the infection.  This process leaves behind antigens, which the body recognizes the next time the pathogen enters the body.  Because the body recognizes the threat from the previous exposure, it can react quickly to fight the infection and prevent disease.

How Vaccines Fight Pathogens

By injecting someone with the antigens of a pathogen, the body learns to recognize and fight it without developing the disease an infection would cause. According to Public Health, a resource for medical students, professionals, and patients, introducing antigens triggers the immune response, so the body quickly responds when exposed to the pathogen in the future.

Antigens cause the body to produce B-lymphocytes, T-lymphocytes, and antibodies. The next time the pathogen is encountered by the body, it can fight the pathogen without becoming infected and ill.

Herd Immunity

Most pathogens don’t live long outside of the body. They weaken the longer they are outside of a body and lose their ability to reproduce.  They require a host, or a body, to live and multiply.  If there are no bodies available, the pathogen may die out because it can’t find enough hosts to stay active.

Once enough people have been exposed to and developed antibodies to a pathogen, it becomes less likely the pathogen will find a new, or susceptible host.  Herd immunity is the point where enough of the population has antibodies, known as immunity, that it becomes unlikely an infected person would have contact with someone who isn’t already immune.

Herd immunity slows the spread of infection because enough people are immune to the pathogen that it rarely reaches those who are still susceptible.

The number of people who need to be immune varies depending on how infectious a pathogen is. Some pathogens spread more easily than others, so more people need to be immune to stop spreading it.

As an example, if pathogen A spreads easily through the air, anyone who has contact with an infected person has a good chance of getting infected too. If pathogen B is only spread through blood contact and dies within a few hours on surfaces, fewer people are likely to be exposed or infected.  It doesn’t matter as much if you’re not immune to pathogen B if your risk for exposure is low.  If you don’t come into contact with the pathogen, you won’t get infected. 

Because pathogens can cause severe and deadly illnesses, if the pathogen is easily spread, many people would get sick or die before enough of the population has immunity as a group, or herd, to stop the spread.

The more people that are vaccinated, the less likely it is that a pathogen can spread through the pollution and sicken or kill people. Vaccines allow the population to reach herd immunity without so many getting infected and becoming ill or dying. 

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