Vaccines and COVID-19: where are we exactly?

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November 18, 2020. Just over eight months after the start of the global COVID-19 pandemic and a frantic race for the miracle cure, two vaccines appear to be effective and safe at 95% according to the full results of their clinical trials. Insights into how a vaccine is made.

November 18, 2020. Just over eight months after the start of the global COVID-19 pandemic and a frantic race for the miracle cure, two vaccines appear to be effective and safe at 95% according to the full results of their clinical trials.

This means that Moderna and the Pfizer / BioNTech alliance will soon be able to potentially provide billions of doses to try to eradicate the new coronavirus which continues to claim victims all over the planet. The chances are therefore good that the first Americans will be vaccinated before the end of 2020.

The United States, Europe, Canada, Japan and other wealthy countries have already reserved hundreds of millions of doses of one or both vaccines. A logistical difference exists, on the other hand, between the two vaccines: that of Pfizer is more complicated to distribute, because it must be transported at -70 ° C, against -20 ° C for Moderna.

A compulsory vaccine?

Could a vaccine as important as that against COVID-19 be mandatory? In Quebec, the probability is very low, according to Dr. Arruda:

“We have a law in Quebec which allows for an obligation to vaccinate in exceptional circumstances of a health crisis. I want to tell you that we have never used it and that it is not at all in our boxes, indicated the DArruda at a press briefing, Tuesday, in Quebec. "

Le Journal de Québec, Tuesday, November 17, 2020

According to a recent survey, approximately 70% of the Quebec population would be inclined to be vaccinated against COVID-19. And the arrival of a vaccine would not be synonymous with the end of the health measures in place. Mr. Arruda warns by mentioning that the wearing of the mask could continue:

“To think that the day we have a vaccine, we come back as before the COVID in the short term, I think it's no, he admitted. According to the national director of public health, it is still too early to say for how many months the health measures will remain in place. "

Le Journal de Québec, Tuesday, November 17, 2020

The role of vaccines

Vaccines are used to protect people by preventing them from developing certain potentially dangerous diseases. During vaccination, the bacteria or attenuated virus is introduced into the body. An attenuated infectious agent is harmless to our health since it cannot cause disease. This is where the immune system kicks in by making antibodies to fight off the bacteria or virus in question. The body therefore trains itself to fight the enemy and if it encounters it for real, it will be protected from it and will not fall ill!

The antibodies that have been developed with the vaccine may be effective against several strains of the same virus at the same time. For example, in the case of influenza, the vaccine contains three different strains (influenza type B, H1N1 and H3N2), which all circulate at the same time, and therefore may be effective against either of these influenza. In 2020, we are talking about an efficacy of 69% for influenza type B, 44% for H1N1 and 62% against H3N2. Overall, this vaccine protects up to 58%.

The manufacture of vaccines

The manufacture of vaccines makes it possible to obtain viruses or bacteria which have lost their pathogenicity, but which have retained their characteristics. Once injected, the vaccine allows the body to produce specific antibodies without developing the disease. To begin manufacturing a vaccine, researchers perform a massive cell culture of the bacteria or virus in question. Then, the collected cells must be heated and treated with chemicals in order to make them harmless.

There are two main processes in vaccine design: live (attenuated) vaccines and inert (inactivated) vaccines. Live or attenuated vaccines, such as those against measles, mumps and rubella require an infectious agent that is still alive, but which has lost its power to infect due to chemical treatments. Other vaccines, like rabies, are created by suppressing infectious agents living in viruses. Or as with tetanus, only a harmless part of the bacteria is used. These are called inert or inactivated vaccines.

Your challenge

At least nine other pharmaceutical or biotech companies are working hard to present a vaccine candidate that may hit the market soon. Search the Internet for the names of these companies and identify a specific characteristic of the vaccine they are producing. You can use a document like Padlet to collect and compare your data.


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