Mass vaccination against COVID-19 may begin in mid-2021, Australian researcher says

21/5/2020 16:13:00

At least three coronavirus vaccines developed today have high chance of success, and should their effectiveness be clinically proven, mass vaccination may begin in a year, or even sooner, says Peter Doherty, an Australian medical researcher and a winner of the 1996 Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine, told TASS.


"There are at least 3 vaccines, all using different technologies, that have already gone into Phase 1 human safety trial. I believe that at least one candidate is in Phase 2 trial, with 300 vaccinated people (+300 placebo controls) out there in the community where they are likely to encounter the infection. If all goes well, there’s some talk of mass vaccination beginning by, or before, mid 2021. Many other vaccines are also at some stage of pre-clinical (in animals) testing," Doherty said, answering a question on perspectives and terms of creation of the COVID-19 vaccine.


The virologist noted that the world will be able to return to its usual way of life only after an effective vaccine is developed.


"The numbers of new infections should also decrease after enough people have been infected and recovered (likely 60% or so) to give herd immunity. If a safe vaccine cannot be found we would, as with HIV, need to rely on specific antiviral drugs or monoclonal antibodies (mAbs)," Doherty said, referring to antibodies, produced by immune cells, related to a single cell clone, i.e. born from a single ancestor plasma cell. "There are currently no such drugs available, and none of the mAbs have been tested for safety and efficacy in humans, but both types of therapeutics are currently in development."


"The virus [becomes] much more dangerous, and the consequences of infection [become] less predictable, as people pass the age of 60," the Nobel Prize laureate continued.


"The most likely explanation for this is that our immune systems become increasingly dysfunctional as we age, with this varying between individuals. There’s the possibility of long-term consequences re heart, lung and kidney damage, but it’s too early to tell how that will play out," he noted.


Doherty noted that the virus, which adapted to live in bats, causing "persistent, inapparent infections," "has entered a completely new host" in humans and began to adapt to the changed circumstances.


"The interaction with our immune system may, particularly in late stages, lead to severe disease. In addition, we have no pre-existing immunity to SARS-CoV-2, so this is what we call a "virgin soil" pandemic," he said. "This virus does mutate, but not at the very high levels we associate with HIV or the influenza viruses. That allows us to track the spread of a particular virus, so it’s useful for public health tracing but there is, as yet, no suggestion of any antigenic change that would limit vaccine efficacy, or of any increase in virulence. There has been some suggestion that a variant that is more infectious has emerged, but there is no consensus on this."




PUKmedia \ TASS


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