While everyone waited for the COVID-19 vaccine keeping their fingers crossed, there was a tonne of misinformation doing the rounds as well. Here are some things you must know about the vaccine:
US federal government-backed pharmaceutical firms announced preliminary results of their Covid-19 vaccines. A press release by Johnson & Johnson stated that a single shot was 85 percent effective in preventing the effects of the virus. Around 44,000 people in the United States, Latin America, and South Africa were enrolled and there were three trials. The former dealt with more severe effects but the mild effects were prevented in the US (72% protective) as compared to the other places, specifically Africa.
A much smaller Maryland-based company named Novavax has conducted a 15,000-person trial in the UK. The vaccine was 89% effective against most Covid-19 strains. In South Africa, however, the efficacy rate was 50%.
Different vaccines for different strains?
What makes the Coronavirus scarier is the various strains dominant in different locations that lead to starkly different results. Scientists in Durban found a bunch of cases connected by a constellation of mutations in the gene, the variant was known as B.1.351. In no time it spread causing new infections across the country. The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Anthony Fauci, commented how the virus is evolving at a surprising pace, and the government along with the leading companies must be able to make versions of the vaccine that are directed toward the new strains.
Pfizer and Moderna are among the first companies to get the Covid-19 vaccines authorized by the US Food and Drug Administration. Both the companies are now retooling their shots as a protection against the new mutations. If everything goes smoothly, the booster dose shall be given as a follow-up to the one’s who received the original vaccine.
Larry Corey, a prominent virologist at the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Division of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, remarks that scientists across the globe need to pay attention. The Novavax trial that took place in South Africa showed the placebo group ended up contracting SARS-CoV-2, so one could possibly get infected by the virus twice. However, the ones who took the vaccine recovered faster.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, of the 32.2 million people who have received a dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, 5.9 million have been fully immunized. The scientists working with the FDA have begun to brainstorm potential changes required to update existing Covid-19 vaccines.
The World Health Organization convenes scientists to figure which virus strains can become a global threat. They figure out the symptoms of the diseases and the best-performing vaccines against them. All this is usually prepared months in advance to buy the vaccine makers time to reformulate, manufacture, test, and distribute their updated shots. However, it is most unlikely that a similar process will benefit the Covid-19 cause.
The two authorized vaccines at present are made with mRNA technology. The genetic code that attempts to make parts of the coronavirus’s spike protein. In theory the process should be as simple as swapping nucleotides in a couple of key locations, testing the new recipes on animals to see the results, i.e which one produces the right kind of antibodies. Pfizer and BioNTech have declared that the laboratory testing procedure might take about six weeks.
Larry Corey believes that the large inflow of cash from Operation Warp Speed will enable the companies to find the necessary resources for the sprint. The question remains, will they be able to thwart the threatening new mutations? Only time can tell.