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An urge to find vaccine for COVID-19

  May 13, 2020

An urge to find vaccine for COVID-19

Context of the News?

The intensity and frequency with which corona virus has taken the world has forced the countries both individually and multilaterally to find the correct vaccine for the COVID-19.

How are people infected with Coronavirus treated currently?

Currently, however, there is no cure for this coronavirus, and treatments are based on the kind of care given for influenza (seasonal flu) and other severe respiratory illnesses, known as "supportive care," according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These treatments essentially treat the symptoms, which often in the case of COVID-19 involve fever, cough and shortness of breath. In mild cases, this might simply mean rest and fever-reducing medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) for comfort. In cases where pneumonia inhibits breathing, the treatment involves ventilation with oxygen. 

Why can viral infections be tough to treat?

Most viruses consist of three key building blocks: RNA, proteins and lipids. A virus is a parasite — in order to survive, it has to ‘hijack’ a cell and use its resources to reproduce until the host cell dies. It then spreads to and infects new cells. But the simple structure of viruses, the large variety in the environment, and their ability to mutate quickly, makes it difficult to treat viral infections.

What must be taken care in development of a new vaccine?

  1. Since vaccines are given to large populations, safety issues are paramount.
  2. The crisis is unprecedented and unimaginably serious, therefore, the speed of vaccine development is crucial.
  3. The nature of the immune response and how to trigger it safely through vaccination will be key questions to be addressed.
  4. How long the acquired immunity in humans will last is another important question to be asked before experimental vaccines moves forward. 
  5. With COVID-19 playing havoc across the world, therapeutic interventions, not only for curing severe cases of the disease but it is also important to protect all front-line healthcare workers.

What are the recent developments?

  1. A large number of candidate vaccines based on different vaccine platforms, including delivering the virus genetic materials (RNA, DNA) or using synthetic biology to produce key viral proteins, have already been developed. 
  2. According to a World Health Organization (WHO) report, more than 20 vaccine candidates are in advanced stages of development and will be ready for Phase-I safety trials. 

What World Health Organisation(WHO) is Doing?

For that conducting carefully controlled randomised trials is the one way to go. The WHO has announced clinical trials called the ‘Solidarity Project’. Under this, four drugs or drug combinations will be tested in many countries around the world. These candidates include the anti-Ebola drug, Remdesivir, Chloroquine, anti-HIV drugs, and the Ritonavir/Lopinavir combination, with or without Interferon-beta. Many countries have already signed up for these trials and all drug companies, including CIPLA from India, have agreed to supply sufficient quantities of drugs needed.