Finding a vaccine to fight Covid 19 explained ........


There is much talk of producing a vaccine to combat Covid19, and I was having trouble understanding what the process involved, so I asked a very good friend of mine to explain it to me in layman's terms. For many years he was a highly respected Biochemist, and here is his reply to my query which I think makes very interesting reading. He has granted permission for his reply to be posted on Navy Net, and I have cut and pasted it unabridged from his email to me :-

Corona viruses are quite common.They mutate quite rapidly.The covid19 one is particularly nasty because it goes for the lungs and is some hundreds of times more infectious than others.
Older vaccines were produced by innoculating eggs,harvesting the virus and killing it off and injecting the now harmless dead vaccine to kid the immune system it is under attack to produce antibodies.The antibodies are specific to the particular strain of virus which is why we need to modify the flue vaccine for several strains each year.
So why so long ?
There are now several ways to go about producing vaccines now they can determine the DNA so they know the building blocks that make up the particular strain and try to find which bit causes the production of antibodies .There are hundreds of labs working on different bits and how they can make them on huge scale.
For example they have found a protein on the spikes of the virus which enables it to lock on to the cells of the lung causing a huge immune response which is the main cause of death.
So you have many different types needing testing,many of which are completely new to science and they all have to be tested and proven to be both safe and effective.
They start with animals,usually macaque monkeys,and inject them with the virus.
They then wait for weeks to look for side effects and antibodies.They do this on increasing dosages to see if there is an optimum.
There is a huge failure rate even at this early stage.
They then have to get healthy human volunteers with no antibodies to be given the vaccine.they wait several weeks to see if they have produced antibodies.again lots of failures,significant side effects or not enough antibodies produced or need to try different dosage.
They then have to persuade the relevant health agency to proceed with clinical trials.
If they get the go ahead they start phase 1 involving perhaps hundreds from the general population using the vaccine and a harmless other vaccine in blind trials.
Here they are mainly looking for harmful side effects for different dosages.
Lots of failures
If they get the go ahead they go to phase 2 where as well a safety they are looking for effectiveness as evidenced by production of antibodies.
They may have to carry out several of these to optimise dose and different groups.
If approved they get permission to go to phase 3.
Here it gets particularly difficult.
If you have a vaccine for a cancer you can select patients you know have cancer and compare remission with and without the drug and you know it is a small population which is under scrutiny.
If you have a global pandemic you have to cover so much more and you have to work with the medical community around the world to recruit sufficient numbers to be meaningful which will run into many thousands for each vaccine which reaches this stage
Some things which complicate
You will gauge success on production of antibodies and on effectiveness__reduction of transmission,intensive care patients,deaths
The majority of people have never had the virus so too small a sample might not include anybody with the disease so no proof the vaccine might have worked.
It is now known that some groups are many times more susceptible than others.This would mean the trials should be carried out in many countries and many communities
Large numbers have the virus and no symptoms so you would not know if antibodies were present because they have had the virus or the vaccine so multiple testing would be necessary throughout the trial.
Finally production facilities would have to be built on spec in advance of the vaccine being approved without knowing which type of process has been used and all the infrastructure and raw materials stockpiled which is an enormous financial commitment.
40 million doses in the uk alone

It needs 70 percent of the population world wide to be vaccinated to ensure the epidemic has stopped and at the moment there appears to be a consensus that any country that comes up with a success will make it available world wide.

I hope you find this as interesting as I did - stay safe!
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