WHY IS IT TAKING SO LONG TO DEVELOP A CORONAVIRUS VACCINE?
China has released the entire RNA sequence of COVID-19, or the newly known SARS-COV-2 virus. That was referring to the illness suffered in the first half of January.
Thanks to this incentive, vaccine development efforts have started all over the world. The University of Queensland and all institutions from the US and Europe are making efforts to develop the vaccine. First , towards the end of January, the Doherty Institute in Melbourne was able to replicate the virus outside China. This allows researchers from all over the world to access a live sample of the virus.
Using this sample, researchers can develop vaccines by understanding much better the properties of the virus. Normally, vaccine development takes 2 to 5 years. But thanks to the superior effort of researchers from all over the world, developing the vaccine will be much shorter.
Why should the whole world join forces ?
No organization in the world has the capacity to develop this vaccine alone. There are stages where a lot of people have to work together to develop vaccines.
First, we have to understand the characteristics and behavior of the virus in the host(human). Then we have to develop an animal model to make it happen.
Then we need to demonstrate the reliability of the potential vaccines developed and accurately determine which immune components in the human body are triggering. Then we should try potential vaccines in clinical animals using the animal model. Vaccines that successfully pass the preclinical test should be tested on humans and their capacity to be seen. All of these are usually tried from outbreak areas.
Finally, once the safety and efficacy of the vaccine is determined, it is expected to pass the necessary regulations. In addition, the price-to-cost ratio of the vaccine is taken into consideration before shipment to the whole world. All of these steps are potential challenges in developing a vaccine.
Here Are Examples Of Challenges To Face
Teams from the International Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations fight in two steps; in one step determine the characteristics of the current virus, and then perform preclinical testing of potential vaccines.
The Doherty Institute in Melbourne and other institutes are isolating this unique coronavirus, reproducing it for the study of scientists. Of course, while viruses are replicated in the laboratory, they are operated under superior security and sterile conditions.
The next stage comes from the process of developing and verifying the correct biological model for the virus. The animal model provides information on how coronavirus is tracked in humans.
Earlier tests on SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) provided a good basis to study. SARS was another Coronavirus outbreak that took place between 2002 and 2003.
Using wild ferrets , scientists who developed a biological model for SARS identified bats as their host Origin.
Between 80-90% of SARS and the new SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus use the same genetic code. Based on his previous SARS experience,he has an optimistic outlook on using wild ferret for the new coronavirus. Of course, other biological models will also be investigated and more reliable data will be obtained.
So If The Virus Mutates, Will The Vaccine Work?
The SARS-CoV-2 virus is highly likely to mutate. Because it is an animal virus, it first adapts to the animal, then transitions to humans. At first, it didn't go from person to person, but it skipped the human-to-human Phase.
As the virus continues to infect humans, it enters stabilization as part of the mutation process.
In fact, this mutation process can vary in various parts of the world , for different reasons. This varies depending on population density, the number of people infected, and how much opportunity the virus has to undergo a mutation. It can also affect the population's predisposition from previous corona exposure, just as seasonal-changing influenza. This is why developing a vaccine by working on one of the latest versions of the virus increases the chances of being effective. All this work requires very strict quality and safety conditions. Global binding requirements and security of elements must be ensured.
The Challenges Don't End With These
Another challenge is to produce the proteins of the virus to develop the vaccine. When these proteins are given, an immune response is created, ensuring that the person's immune system protects against future infection.
Fortunately , with advances in understanding viral proteins, protein structures and functions can be elucidated at considerable speed.
For these reasons ,developing a vaccine is not a job that will happen overnight. If all goes as planned, the vaccine could be developed at an unprecedented pace.
There are many lessons to be learned from the Coronavirus outbreak. Thanks to the knowledge and cooperation of scientists, the coronavirus vaccine will be developed.