DURBAN – Normally it takes years to develop a safe and effective vaccine. As Coronavirus continues its terror across the globe, Scientists are moving at an unprecedented speed to develop a vaccine that will be effective against Covid-19 sooner than later.
While this might be a welcome relief to the billions of people whose lives have been upended by the pandemic, the media has been urged not to amplify false hope when reporting about Covid-19 vaccines.
Speaking at an online panel Tuesday organized by the International Fact-Checking Network and the International Center For Journalists, IFCN associate director Cristina Tardáguila urged journalists not.
“Please make sure that your headline brings the information that testing is still being done, or the international scientific community still has doubts. While the development of a Covid-19 vaccine is welcome news,” said Tardáguila, who warned that misinformation about false Covid-19 cures has been rampant throughout the infodemic.
It’s reported that one of the most time-consuming parts of clinical trials is enrolling participants but pharmaceutical companies have sped up this process by lining up volunteers early, obtaining important baseline data from them even before a vaccine candidate is available. The fastest-ever vaccine development, for mumps, took more than four years before it was licensed in 1967.
During development, a vaccine needs to go through the following steps:
1.Basic understanding of the virus
Scientists first identify the proteins and sugars on the surface of the viruses or infected cells, then study whether these proteins can be used to produce an immune response.
This may involve isolating the live virus before inactivating or weakening it and then determining whether this modified virus, which is known as a vaccine candidate, might produce immunity in people.
Initial safety testing is usually carried out in animals to give an idea of responses in humans. These are also used to see how effective the vaccine is at preventing the disease and allows researchers to adapt the vaccine.
4.Clinical trials – testing in humans
This step is where many promising potential vaccines fail. There are three phases of a clinical trial:
- Testing on a few dozen healthy volunteers, looking at how safe the vaccine is, and if it has any adverse effects;
- Testing on several hundred people for efficacy (a “target population” who are ideally those most at risk of the disease);
- Testing on several thousand people for efficacy and safety.
This phase is what Scientists regard as critical because it determines whether a vaccine it’s safe or effective. The Sputnik V which Russia’s President Vladimir Putin announced as the world’s first Covid-19 vaccine hasn’t been through the full gamut of tests. There is currently no available data from phase one and phase two. Without data, scientists don’t know how safe it is.
However, what is known is that the vaccine is based on the DNA of a SARS-CoV-2 type adenovirus, a common cold virus. The vaccine uses the weakened virus to deliver small parts of a pathogen and stimulate an immune response.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) said it would need to review the vaccine’s safety and efficacy data in order to give the vaccine approval and the full go-ahead for large-scale production.
Use of a vaccine before full licensing can be considered in a public health emergency.
Once a vaccine has been produced at a small scale and passed safety tests, it can be used in clinical trials. Quality control is also needed. All of these processes are very carefully monitored. Once licensed, policies must be developed to decide how to prioritise those who should be vaccinated, such as those in the most high-risk groups and locations.
Researchers around the world are developing more than 165 vaccines against the coronavirus, and 31 vaccines are in human trials. Drug companies Pfizer and Moderna last month both began late-stage trials for potential coronavirus vaccines, which are both expected to include up to 30,000 participants.
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