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Sat Mar 28, 2020, 02:58 AM

Inside the race to develop a coronavirus vaccine

'It’s a razor’s edge we’re walking': inside the race to develop a coronavirus vaccine

Around the world, more than 40 teams are working on a vaccine for Covid-19. We followed one doctor in the most urgent quest of his life.

By Samanth Subramanian
Fri 27 Mar 2020 06.00 GMT

Link: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/27/inside-the-race-to-develop-a-coronavirus-vaccine-covid-19


Defeating Covid-19 will call for more than vaccines; it will involve quarantines, social distancing, antivirals and other drugs, and healthcare for the sick. But the idea of a vaccine – the quintessential silver bullet – has come to bear an almost unreasonable allure. The coronavirus arrived at a ripe moment in genetic technology, when the advances of the past half-decade have made it possible for vaccine projects to explode off the blocks as soon as a virus is sequenced. These cutting-edge vaccines don’t use weakened forms of the germ to build our immunity, as all vaccines once did; rather, they contain short copies of parts of the germ’s genetic code – its DNA or RNA – which can produce fragments of the germ within our bodies.

Thus, for the first time ever, scientists have been able to muster up vaccine prospects mere weeks into a new, fast-spreading disease. Right now, there are at least 43 Covid-19 vaccines in development around the world – in Brisbane and Hong Kong, in the US and the UK, in the labs of universities and companies. Most of these are DNA or RNA vaccines. One vaccine, made in 63 days by an American biotech firm named Moderna, moved into human trials on 16 March, entering the bloodstream of the first of 45 healthy adult volunteers in Seattle. It was a “world indoor record”, said Anthony Fauci, the doctor who heads the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “Nothing has ever gone that fast.”

The overriding purpose of the process is abundant caution; a vaccine that unexpectedly proves harmful is the industry’s worst nightmare. In the literature, past mishaps flash like red warning signals. In 1942, a yellow fever vaccine contaminated with a hepatitis B virus was given to more than 300,000 American troops; nearly 150 of them died. The field’s classic reference text, Plotkin’s Vaccines, by the physician Stanley Plotkin, refers sombrely to “the Cutter incident” – a 1955 episode in which a manufacturer named Cutter Laboratories failed to properly deactivate the virus in its polio shot. The faulty vaccine caused roughly 40,000 cases of polio, paralysed 260 people and killed 10.

The US’s strict rules to regulate vaccines emerged, in part, because of Cutter Laboratories. The company survived, but paid out millions in civil damages. The Cutter incident set a precedent for more lawsuits during the next three decades, in which parents argued that their children had been disabled by malfunctioning vaccines. Some pharma firms, worried about multimillion-dollar claims settlements, abandoned vaccines altogether; others hiked their prices to cover any future legal costs. To keep vaccines cheap and vaccinations regular, the US government had to set up a compensation fund that eased most of the liability on vaccine companies.

The article is a long read but provides both an interesting review of vaccine history and of COVID-19's evolution into the scientific community as a challenge for the best and brightest.


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KY_EnviroGuy Mar 2020 OP
no_hypocrisy Mar 2020 #1

Response to KY_EnviroGuy (Original post)

Sat Mar 28, 2020, 06:54 AM

1. And it will require pharmaceuticals to manage and perhaps to "cure" COVID-19.

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