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COVID-19 Pandemic: The Race for a Vaccine Continues

October 29, 2020


President Donald Trump made a bold statement during the final presidential debate, promising that a coronavirus vaccine will be ready “within weeks.” But, while hopes are rising and multiple vaccines are now in the final stages of development and testing, it remains unclear if a coronavirus vaccine will be approved by the end of the year. 

Scientists seem to disagree on the issue. While epidemiologist Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding, a senior fellow at the Federation of American Scientists in Washington D.C., said it’s not possible to see a vaccine in just a few weeks, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said an answer should be available by the end of November or early December. His statement came after the news broke that the United Kingdom National Health Service (NHS) is also preparing to start vaccinating frontline staff in the coming weeks. While the race for a vaccine continues, scientists warn that early adoption of a vaccine may also have negative effects.

COVID-19: Medical Therapies and Vaccines

Scientists around the world are not just looking for an effective vaccine when fighting the pandemic, but also searching for other therapies in order to provide their patients with the best chance to fight the new coronavirus. According to Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Research Center, the categories of therapies currently being developed are antiviral drugs and antibodies that can stop the virus from replicating, and immune response modifiers, which are drugs that dampen an abnormal immune response. The global effort to stop the coronavirus pandemic centers on the development of vaccines for COVID-19, but also on effective treatments that can cure the condition.

Because the race for a vaccine has picked up speed around the world, scientists are starting to worry that early adoption may come with multiple negative effects. Moderate to low effectiveness and the risk of ignoring other vaccines and therapies are just two of the potential problems scientists now face.

What Makes COVID-19 So Dangerous?

While mankind has faced many viral threats before, the new coronavirus is thankfully the only virus in recent history to cause a global pandemic. However, this also makes COVID-19 especially dangerous because it seems that this particular virus can run rampant in our lungs and airways without our body noticing it has become infected. “This virus is brilliant, it allows you to have a viral factory in your nose and feel completely well,” explains Prof. Paul Lehner from the University of Cambridge. With the virus also being a new one, we seem to lack the protection needed to fight it and we ultimately depend on finding an effective vaccine or treatment. But, while the search for a vaccine continues, more than 8.5 million people have become infected in the U.S. alone and 224,891 people have died nationwide. 

The recent spike in cases was to be expected, according to scientists around the world and is not restricted just to the U.S. With Europe experiencing the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, some European countries are also rushing to find a vaccine. 

Germany Expects to Have a Vaccine by Mid-2021

While the U.S. president’s statements may seem overly optimistic, he is not alone in thinking a coronavirus vaccine is likely to be available by the end of the year. According to Reuters, Germany also plans to start distributing a vaccine before the end of 2020. Germany’s Health Ministry is preparing 60 immunization hubs to store future vaccines, while the country’s 16 federal states were asked to lay the logistics groundwork by mid-November. Maybe even more important is the fact that Health Minister Jens Spahn was already quoted saying that one of the country’s pharmaceutical companies is close to getting a vaccine approved. With Germany’s infection rates now rising, the country’s rush to provide its citizens with a vaccine is understandable.

While scientists around the world are sharing their concerns about the early adoption of a moderately or slightly effective vaccine, some people are already visiting different regions in China where they can sign-up for experimental vaccines. Many people have already been vaccinated in this country, but the effects of these unapproved vaccines on the local population remain largely unknown. 

It’s just a matter of time until an effective COVID-19 vaccine is available in the U.S. However, until that day comes, many people will die and even more will get infected. And while the vaccine will definitely be good news for those infected, they will still need an equally effective cure.