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Why do we need a vaccine for COVID-19?

Why do we need a vaccine for COVID-19? How are vaccines developed? And when will the Corona virus vaccine be available? ‍

As COVID-19 continues to infect and kill thousands of people around the world, politicians, healthcare professionals, and the public are wondering how to get out of lockdown and begin to return to normal life. But that will not be easy.

Without a vaccine against SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, there will always be a risk of new outbreaks of the disease.

While strict testing, contact tracing, and quarantine measures will help control the spread of COVID-19, the only way to significantly reduce the threat is for enough residents to become immune to the virus so that they cannot transmit it.

For this to work, we need about 60% of the population to be immune to the disease. However, as it stands, it is estimated that only about 2-14% of people may be immune to MERS infection, although this may be higher in some cities.

Large-scale community immunity (often referred to as "herd immunity") can be achieved by infecting multiple people with the infection, which is extremely risky and costs thousands of lives, or by vaccination. Not surprisingly, many politicians and scientists see the COVID-19 vaccine as the only sure way to return to normal life.

In this post, I discuss how a coronavirus vaccine will help us protect ourselves from COVID-19. We review how scientists are developing coronavirus vaccines so rapidly, what progress has been made so far, and how long the vaccine will take before it is ready for widespread use.

How is a coronavirus vaccine made? ‍

Vaccines can be viewed as "training programs" for the immune system, teaching immune cells to recognize and destroy invading bacteria and viruses (pathogens) that cause disease.

Most vaccines contain a small portion of the disease-causing microbe or a harmless form of the entire pathogen. When the vaccine is injected into your body, your immune system begins to respond without making you sick. So if you encounter the actual disease at a later time, you are protected because your body already knows what it looks like and how to deal with it.

Until now, development of a COVID-19 vaccine has focused on using a specific portion of the coronavirus, the spiky proteins on the surface, to build immunity.

The SARS-CoV-2 virus responsible for COVID-19 consists of genetic material located on a membrane full of spike proteins. The virus attaches itself to respiratory cells and enters them using spines, then hijacks the cellular machinery to make more copies of itself.

What is the scope of ‍

Research on COVID-19 vaccines has progressed very rapidly compared to previous vaccines. This is due both to global research efforts supported by governments and public health organizations, and as a result of the use of new genetic technologies to rapidly identify potential vaccine candidates.

A team of Chinese scientists sequenced the genetic material of the virus and published it on January 12, when extensive research and testing of the vaccine began around the world. The first candidate vaccines were ready for preclinical testing in animals a few weeks later, and few have already undergone clinical trials with human volunteers.

As of April 8, there are 115 candidate vaccines in development, each with its own strategy for building immunity.

Some depend on the injection of virus proteins into the body or the release of the entire virus in a weak and harmless form. Others use different techniques to deliver the genetic material of the virus to their cells, which in turn produce the spinal proteins necessary to generate immunity. ‍

When will the coronavirus vaccine be ready? ‍

The most important thing about any coronavirus vaccine is that it be safe and effective. Six of the candidate vaccines have already entered the first phase of human clinical trials, which are designed to test whether the vaccines are safe and can trigger an immune response, rather than whether they are effective in preventing disease.

Larger trials should show that the vaccine provides adequate protection against COVID-19. Then, once you show that the vaccine is safe and effective, you still have to overcome the challenges related to expansion, manufacturing, and distribution to billions of people around the world.

There is nothing "safe" about vaccine development. At the moment, it is not even clear whether people have become immune to COVID-19 after contracting the disease and, if that happens, how long the immunity will last.

The fact that there are many candidates in development increases the chances that one or more of them will be successful. Instead of being a race with only one winner, it looks a lot like a penalty shootout with hundreds of shots on target.

However, the timelines for when we might get a vaccine are uncertain, and for good reason: Many promising vaccine candidates fail in clinical trials.

Some scientists have suggested that, hopefully, a vaccine could be rolled out in some groups later this year, while others said it would be mid-2021 at the earliest.

Will we be stuck locked up until we have a vaccine? ‍

Until a vaccine is widely available, all we can do is monitor the spread of COVID-19 through strict monitoring, testing, contact tracing, and quarantine or other blocking restrictions when necessary. ‍

Our COVID Symptom Tracker app is a powerful tool for finding out how many people may be infected and where they live, giving legislators and healthcare providers the vital data they need to know how successful lockdown measures are and when they can be lifted. ‍

And when the vaccine is ready, we can use what we learned from our app to determine where the vaccine is most needed, where it is most at risk, and who should get it first.

To sum up:

  • Vaccines protect us from disease by giving us immunity without getting sick.
  • It usually contains a part of the pathogen that causes the disease, which trains our immune system to protect us.
  • There are more than 100 Corona virus vaccines in development around the world, with different strategies to build immunity.
  • Some vaccines have reached clinical trials, but they have not yet been shown to be safe and effective.
  • It will likely take several months to find one or more vaccines that are effective against COVID-19.
  • In the absence of a vaccine, how long we will be locked up depends on other steps we take to control the spread of the disease.
  • Tracking symptoms is an important way to control and contain the spread of COVID-19 and ease lockdown restrictions.