It’s hard to find anything in the news today that isn’t about COVID-19. This novel coronavirus has been sweeping its way around the globe and been very difficult to stop, treat, or prevent. You can see in news stories from around the world that some countries have been able to keep it contained and that scientists in Europe and North America are working on treatments and vaccines. But the coronavirus family of viruses is notoriously hard to eradicate. So, what do you need to know about vaccines for viruses and where medical scientists currently stand?
Creating a Coronavirus Vaccine
Scientists and medical professionals have said that the only way we can feel more confident reopening businesses across the country is to either have a vaccine or experience herd immunity. The scientific research community is working hard around the world to create a vaccine. But with the knowledge we have about the novel coronavirus changing almost daily, scientists are preparing to spend a year or more working it.
News from the WHO
The World Health Organization has been making regular updates and is continuing to work with researchers around the world to create a vaccine for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the disease called COVID-19. The WHO reports that research is happening around the globe at “breakneck” speed. However, vaccines can traditionally take years to develop. The current expectation is to have a vaccine by mid-2021.
Types of Vaccines
It’s helpful to understand a little of the science behind vaccines and what we’re working against. Vaccines are used to kickstart the immune system to fight off specific diseases. There are four types of vaccines.
- Live-attenuated vaccines
- Inactivated vaccines
- Subunit, recombinant, polysaccharide, and conjugate vaccines
- Toxoid vaccines
Live vaccines use a weakened form of the germ that causes the disease. For this reason, they create a lasting immunity and are useful against diseases like measles and chickenpox. Inactivated vaccines use a killed version of the germ and usually require booster shots. They’re used for conditions like flu and hepatitis. The third category will utilize a specific portion of the germ in question, such as a protein, and are used for things like shingles or pneumonia. The vaccine for tetanus falls into the fourth category.
Currently, there are no vaccines that provide immunity for any form of coronavirus in humans.
Vaccines and Herd Immunity
Vaccines are only a part of the strategy against COVID-19. In conditions such as those caused by the novel coronavirus, herd immunity is also a big boost to the general public. The idea is that if enough people get the disease and recover, it will limit the continued spread. However, there are some questions about herd immunity and the virus SARS-CoV-2. It’s still undetermined if someone recovers from the virus if they now have immunity and won’t become infected again if exposed.
Another aspect of fighting this disease is treatments. If researchers can determine effective treatments that will help a large number of infected people, it can increase the chances of survival and improve the statistics surrounding COVID-19. However, everything in the middle of a pandemic is often viewed as trial and error, and without enough time to effectively run clinical trials, it can often feel like one step forward and two steps back.
The science changes regularly, so we encourage healthcare professionals and management to keep up with the latest news from health organizations around the world.
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