The search for a safe and effective Covid vaccine has seen unprecedented international co-operation as scientists and health professionals seek a solution to the global pandemic.
We’ve gathered as much information as we can so you can keep abreast of how the search for a safe and effective vaccine is going.
Organisations like the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and GAVI, have been working across the world to bring funding and research together to accelerate the search for a Covid-19 vaccine, without which it is estimated up to 80% of the global population – over 4 billion people – could become infected, with tens of millions of people dying as a consequence.
Vaccines protect a community by establishing “population immunity”, (sometimes called “herd immunity“). This occurs when a high proportion of the population has anti-bodies which will fight off the infection. This means that if somebody who is infected comes in to the community, there is nobody to infect, so the disease dies out.
And the Economic consequences of the severe slowdown in economic activity, as Governments act to keep their people safe, has seen millions of people lose their jobs. Without a vaccine, it is unlikely that we will see a rapid return to normal levels of economic activity for a number of years.
There has been unprecedented co-operation between scientists and medical researchers across the world in the search for a vaccine against Covid-19, the disease caused by Coronavirus infection. Governments have also committed billions towards this research.
As of 2 October 2020, 42 potential vaccines had reached the stage of undergoing clinical trials, where the vaccine is tested on humans. 10 candidate vaccines were in phase 3 trials, which happen after the vaccine has been tested first on a small number of people, then on a few hundred, to check it is safe. If it is, it is allowed to move on to the phase 3,large-scale human trials. These trials often see more than 5,000 people taking part in trials to check it works and is safe.
It is important to recognise that all the normal steps of vaccine development are being followed. So if you read about a trial being halted because of somebody having a potentially adverse reaction, this is entirely normal. This happens as any vaccine moves through their human trial stages.
Once trials are completed and Public Health bodies agree to issue a vaccine with a licence, the first people likely to be offered the vaccine will be front-line medical and care staff to help protect them from getting infected if they are treating Covid patients.
Because they are at most risk of falling ill should they get infected, older people and those with chronic illnesses are likely to be the next group of people offered the vaccine.
People of working age who do not have an underlying condition which makes them more vulnerable are likely to be the final phase of an initial inoculation programme.
Unlike most common vaccines and because they appear to be much less likely to contract the infection, children are not likely to be offered the vaccine in the early stages of the inoculation programme.
Almost all the trials are working on the vaccine being given by injection into the upper arm. There would be an initial dose, followed by a booster 2-4 weeks later.
The trials are designed to show that the vaccine is safe, without serious side-effects. All vaccines have minor side-effects that about 10% of people suffer from, but generally, severe side-effects are very rare, with fewer than one person in one millIon suffering them.
Almost all side-effects become apparent very soon after the vaccine is given. These are usually mild, like a minor temperature or soreness and in young babies, elevated irritability. All those who have volunteered for clinical trials will continue to be monitored both for short-term side-effects and to see if any long-term side effects emerge.
Several new vaccines have been developed and introduced over the last twenty years for diseases like Meningitis and HPV (which is a cause of Cervical Cancer). These have been successfully added to the range of vaccines children receive without any noticeable increase in people suffering side-effects.
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