Covid-19 continues to conquer new territories, taking lives of more than 12 000 people on its way. Humanity is trying to fight it. Trying to stop the epidemic, the governments of several countries, including Ukraine, introduced tough restrictive measures. But the main potential "weapon" against the virus is still in development. And scientists from all over the world are working on it.
A vaccine is…
A drug designed to provide immunity against a disease by stimulating the production of antibodies.
It may include suspensions of killed or attenuated viruses, as well as products or derivatives of microorganisms.
In other words, the vaccine “introduces” the human immune system to a neutralized / attenuated virus or bacterium. And when the body encounters the same infection in real life, it will be able to recognize the "enemy" and will already know how to deal with it.
The most common method of vaccination is injection, some use mouth or by nasal spray.
How is it developed
The manufacturing process for a new vaccine involves many steps that take some time. For example, this is how WHO described the development of a pandemic influenza vaccine:
Stage one - Identification of a new virus. One of the centers identifies a previously unknown virus, which differs significantly from circulating strains, and informs WHO of this fact.
Stage two (takes three weeks) - preparation of the vaccine strain. The virus is adapted for use in the production of vaccines: it is mixed with a standard laboratory strain of the virus and create the conditions for their joint growth. The result is a hybrid virus.
Stage three (three weeks) - verification of the vaccine strain. In other words, the hybrid virus is tested and then passed on to vaccine manufacturers.
Stage four (at least three months) - preparation of reagents for testing the vaccine. WHO collaborating centers produce reagents and provide them to all the vaccine manufacturers.
For their part, manufacturers optimize the conditions for the growth of the virus (three weeks); engaged in the production of bulk vaccine components; after the supply of reagents for testing vaccines by WHO laboratories, they begin quality control (two weeks); pack and release vaccines (two weeks).
Stage five - clinical trials. According to the scientists, it takes 3 months in order to test a potential vaccine in several dozen healthy volunteers and make sure that it is safe.
Then, several thousand people are involved in testing, ideally living in the place of the virus outbreak (6-8 months), and finally, they repeat the experiment at the epicenter of infection in several thousand patients (this will also take about 6-8 months).
The final stage is the approval of the vaccine (from 1 month - up to one year). Before a vaccine can be marketed or introduced to people, permission must be obtained. The final word is with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
"According to the logic of simple mathematics, since potential vaccines (against Covid-19, - ed.) began to be developed in January, a version approved for public use will be available no earlier than in the late summer of 2021. And this is in case everything goes well ", biologists say.
Note that this is not the only forecast. And that the timing of the development of a vaccine against new coronavirus is more difficult to calculate because other less time-tested methods are used to create it.
Covid-19 vaccine: method of creation
To develop it, the method of creating a vaccine based on fragments of the genetic code of the virus is used.
"Since we know the complete genetic code of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, it is possible to develop a vaccine that, once introduced into the cell, provides the production of pathogen proteins and elicits the necessary immune response," the BBC reports.
In particular, scientists use the method of transferring a fragment of the SARS-CoV-2 genetic code to other viruses that are safe for humans.
"Such a" genetic vaccination "should also theoretically help increase the immunity to coronavirus. Sometimes DNA or RNA fragments of pathogens are introduced directly. When they enter the body, they begin to produce pathogen proteins, and the immune system learns to resist these proteins," the report said.
The situation for now
On Friday, March 20, the American CNBC, citing the World Health Organization, reported that around 20 new type of vaccines against coronavirus are being developed in the world, some of which are already undergoing clinical trials.
However, WHO representatives emphasized that vaccines are still far from being made available for public use.
As director of the WHO emergency program Michael Ryan noted, there is only one thing more dangerous than a bad virus, "and this is a bad vaccine."
"We have to be very careful when developing any product that we will potentially introduce to most of the world's population," Ryan said
Trials of a potential vaccine began on March 16 at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle, a city in the state of Washington. It was developed by the Moderna biotechnology company in conjunction with the US National Institute of Health (NIH).
In total, 45 volunteers will take part in the first phase of clinical trials. The first eight people received the vaccine on Monday and Tuesday.
Interesting thing, the company did not test its invention on animals, immediately moving to people. The probability of getting infected from vaccinations is reduced to zero, because they do not contain a dead or attenuated virus. The preparation contains part of the genetic code copied from the virus.
A complete vaccine test will take from one to 18 months. In April, US company Inovio Pharmaceuticals plans to start testing at the University of Pennsylvania and the testing center in Kansas City.
The Chinese authorities announced the creation of a vaccine against coronavirus at the end of February this year, noting the need for further checks and refinements.
"China has already developed a vaccine that shows immunity. But this is preliminary, further checks and improvements are needed," said Chinese Ambassador to Russia Zhang Hanhui.
Meanwhile Britain is looking for 24 volunteers to be infected with two common, but much less serious strains of the virus.
The goal is to simulate the entire process in a controlled environment, while testing many possible vaccines to see if they work on patients and to understand which parts of the development need to be given more attention.
Italian scientists are planning to test the vaccine in the coming week, ANSA reports. The Takis development company notes that with satisfactory results of the first tests, they can begin testing the drug in humans in the fall.
The vaccine was obtained on the basis of a fragment of the virus genetic material.
In Germany vaccine is being developed by the CureVac pharmaceutical company, which has branches in several countries around the world, including the United States.
The Welt am Sonntag publication, citing its sources in the government on March 17, wrote about the scandal that arose between Washington and Berlin.
It was reported that US leader Donald Trump allegedly offered CureVac a billion dollars for the company to either transfer its research to the United States or give the American authorities exclusive access to its vaccine.
CureVac later said that the “rumors of a purchase” were untrue and that if the vaccine was developed successfully, coronavirus infected people around the world could take advantage of it.
The company hopes to develop an experimental vaccine by June / July, and then obtain permission to test in humans.