What to expect from the first coronavirus vaccines

The first coronavirus vaccine may come soon, but it is unlikely to be the defining blow you may be waiting for.

Because it is important: The end of this global pandemic almost certainly rests with a vaccine. However, experts caution that it is important to have realistic expectations about how much you will be able to achieve the first vaccines at the finish line, and will not be able to achieve them.

Where is it located: Work on a coronavirus vaccine is proceeding at an unprecedented rate. There are about 200 candidates in development, 27 are being tested on humans and a handful They are already in an advanced phase of clinical trials.

  • Every new piece of positive news from that effort makes the best case scenario: that one of these products turns out and wins at least an initial FDA nod early next year seems more plausible.

Yes, but: First-generation vaccines are often not the ones to stop a new virus on its way, and experts’ hopes for an initial coronavirus vaccine are much more modest.

  • “Right now, we just need something to mitigate the damage this virus causes,” said Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease expert at Johns Hopkins University. “Maybe it doesn’t prevent you from getting infected, but it does prevent you from being hospitalized or it prevents you from dying … that would be huge.”

How does it work: Some vaccines, such as measles, mumps, and rubella, produce almost complete and lasting immunity. Others, like the annual flu shot, are important tools to help contain a virus, but they don’t achieve “sterilizing immunity.”

  • It is not yet known how much protection any of the possible coronavirus vaccines could provide, nor how long it would last.
  • “It is difficult to make coronavirus vaccines,” said Mark Poznansky, an infectious disease specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital. “It doesn’t mean it’s not possible, but it’s challenging, especially with COVID-19, where we still don’t understand the inflammatory response to the virus and how much of the immune response is critical to preventing infection.”
  • While initial evidence for COVID-19 vaccines looks promising, second- and even third-generation products are likely to target more viruses and hopefully generate stronger and more durable immunity than the first vaccines they will offer, Poznansky said.

Vaccinate enough people Returning safely to our old communal habits will also pose more practical challenges.

  • Even with an accelerated start to manufacturing, which is happening now, there won’t be enough supply, at least initially, to address the magnitude of a global pandemic. Therefore, we need some kind of system to distribute the global supply and then prioritize who in the US receives our doses.
  • And if you distrust a vaccine It prevents large numbers of people from getting it, so the United States may not achieve the “collective immunity” that prevents widespread outbreaks.

Two of the main candidates. – drugs in development by the University of Oxford and the American modern biotechnology firm – require patients to receive two injections.

  • So if you want to vaccinate 300 million people, you will need 600 million doses. And receiving 300 million doses will already be a difficult task.

The bottom line: Even after a vaccine is available, the coronavirus can still linger, infect, and even kill people. The numbers would be lower.

  • That may not be what the quarantined audience is imagining, but experts say it is a realistic expectation, and it would be an incredible step forward.

Go deeper: A Verification of the Reality of a Former CDC Director’s Vaccine