What we know about the coronavirus vaccine so far.
Please note: as research is constantly developing around this subject, information and data may be subject to change, so please explore current data in conjunction with reading this blog.
Hello there. Hope you are well. Hope you had a good weekend.
As you know, it has been quite a year; an unprecedented year. The whole world has been struggling to manage with the Coronavirus pandemic. Many have lost loved ones, many have developed or further exasperated existing or new mental illnesses such as depression and or anxiety due to isolation, lockdown and job loss due to the shutting down of economies. Many have developed coping strategies, some good, some bad. Some have taken up hobbies and explored interests. Others have found coping in the bottom of a bottle, with alcohol and substance misuse related mental and physical health related illnesses on the rise as a result.
People have worn masks, washed their hands, adhered to social distance guidance. And some have not. Out of frustration and or anger, some have flaunted the rules and guidance and have not adhered to advice, and some may say that this in part has led to a recent increase in infections. This cannot and should not be marked as the exclusive cause by no means. There are other causes of course, such as people not having access to clean drinking water, the means to wash their hands and the means to wear masks. For many countries as well, especially at this time of year toward the Christmas time, it is becoming colder and this is generally a time when colds and flus are on the rise. This is also a time when older and more vulnerable people with compromised immune systems finding themselves becoming more susceptible to developing illnesses and or complications to existing physical issues such as their joints, further effecting their mobility.
Coming into the cold season, many were worried, feeling how the added cold may affect the already vulnerable people in the community at risk of also getting the coronavirus. After a year of difficulty though, there appeared some light at the end of the tunnel: a vaccine.
But when did the search for the vaccine begin?
After the coronavirus was detected in December 2019, the genetic sequence of COVID‑19 was published on 11 January 2020, triggering an urgent international response to prepare for an outbreak and hasten development of a preventive vaccine.
According to the World Health Organisation (2020), safety alongside the relatively rapid research and development process for an urgent vaccine has been met due to unprecedented financial investments and various scientific collaborations. As a result, this has enabled some steps in the R&D process to happen in parallel with one another,
“while still maintaining strict clinical and safety standards. For example, some clinical trials are evaluating multiple vaccines at the same time. However, this does not make the studies any less rigorous.”
For more information on the work that WHO is doing around vaccine research have a look at their website. They are doing some truly remarkable work.
Having an understanding of the vaccine and the journey though also comes with having a better understanding of what the coronavirus is.
According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, or the CDC (2020), coronavirus is a novel virus, a new type of the coronavirus disease not previously identified. It is not the same as the coronavirus that is commonly known to cause the common cold. The virus causing the coronavirus disease 2019, or otherwise known as COVID-19, is more commonly including mild to serious upper-respiratory tract illnesses, and has resulted in close to 1.6 million global deaths.
According to John Hopkins University (2020), since its outbreak, COVID-19 has lead to 71,191,310 global cases and 1,587,212 global deaths. Whilst this equates to 2% of those infected dying, one should not take this virus any less seriously. It is only until quite recently that a vaccine has been approved, but the journey has been fraught with great uncertainty and sacrifice. It is also difficult, as being a virus of respiratory effect and transmissible by aerosol means such as from the mouth and nose, proximity to others has needed to be advised and monitored. Those already at risk of a compromised cardio-respiratory health, such as those with heart and or lung problems, have been at the high end of the risk rating, as well as those who are older and more fraught with CV and other related health issues.
So whilst 2% may not seem like a big margin, those at risk are particularly vulnerable, and not until recently a vaccine was not available, so special steps such as isolating, working from home and limiting meeting up with others has had to be implemented to try and slow the spread of the infection.
In the process of developing a vaccine, one of the most important steps is first understanding the makeup of the virus and what makes it work.
According to Tyrrell and Myint (1996), the coronavirus has been around for several years, and gets its name due to its crown-like appearance of the envelope glycoproteins. It functions by entering the host cell, and then transcribing and translating the uncoated genome. Messenger RNA, or mRNA, the single-strand molecule of RNA that corresponds to the genetic sequence of the gene, is read by the ribosome in the process of protein synthesis (Cobb, 2015). In the case of COVID-19, the mRNA form a unique nested set, with new virion strands forming by growing from the host cell membranes.
Transmission is usually airborne to the nasal mucosa, with the virus replicating in the cells of pseudostratified respiratory epithelium, or fleshy skin within the nose. It is here that the virus replicates, causing cell damage and inflammation, and transmission along the respiratory system.
Here is a really good video which I have found which explains the coronavirus disease 19 in a straight forward way without sacrificing the science. It may be good to share with members of the family, and is an easy way to understand what the virus is, how it effects the body and how it is transmitted.
For those with much younger kids, this video below may be a more friendly explanation of what the virus and how it effects the body.
Understanding the virus lends us to the next step: researching ways and means to combat the transmission and spread of the virus.
Until quite recently, many were advised that ways to slow the spread and transmission of the virus included wearing masks to cover the mouth and nose, practicing stringent hand hygiene, maintaining recommended social distancing measures, isolating if suspected to be symptomatic or verified by testing, and working away from and securing those who may be at higher risk of infection, such as the elderly, those with CV illnesses and complications, and those with existing compromised immune systems.
Research started soon after the virus was identified though, research into medical ways to combat the virus. As some may know if watching the news there have been some major breakthroughs in vaccine research that has reached approval, however some may not be aware that there are still several still several other types of COVID-19 vaccine in development. According to Gavi / The Vaccine Alliance (2020), there are four main types of COVID-19 vaccine in current development: whole virus, protein subunit, viral vector, and nucleic acid (RNA and DNA).
Please note, this data was sourced from research available in October 2020, so some data and figures may have changed.
Please see below for data of vaccines in development as of October 2020.
COVID-19 Vaccine types in development
Candidates in Clinical Phases I-III
Whole virus = 7; Protein subunit = 14; Nucleic = 10; Viral vector = 13
As of 10/10/2020
According to CDC (2020), there are several vaccines which are in development, as of November 2020, there are five major clinical trials for large scale / Phase 3 COVID-19 vaccines:
- AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine
- Janssen’s COVID-19 vaccine
- Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine
- Novavax’s COVID-19 vaccine
- Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine
Whilst these five major vaccines have been hotly debated, one has come forward with quite possibly the quickest and most chance of most effective efficacy.
According to Roberts (2020), the Oxford / AstraZeneca Covid vaccine is safe and effective to use and gives good protection.
According to Voysey et al (2020), in an article published in the esteemed medical journal The Lancet, many of the people in the study were under the age of 55, however the results of the studies in which independent scientists trialled and tested over 20,000 people, indicated that it would work in older people as well. The research would have been overseen by watchful and experienced regulators, however with most new vaccines, even one that is rolling out on the production line following medical approval, there remain unanswered questions:
- What are the long term side-effects?
- How long does the immunity last? Is a vaccine that will need to taken every 6 months, or is the frequency over longer periods of time?
As the vaccine is still in its infancy in terms of approval and distribution, we wont really know until further data is published and further research is done to answer these important questions. And whilst the vaccines are being researched, approved and distributed, we all still need to be vigilant. This cannot be a case of where people become overly relaxed and complacent, thinking that the new vaccines have fixed the problem.
We still have to act with caution and keep to existing hygiene, mask and personal space measures to slow the spread of the airborne novel virus.
Please note that at the time of writing, some of the existing information and data may be subject to change, so please keep yourself informed with the most up to date research in mind while reading this.
Remember: it’s a journey. It will take time. Have patience in the process. You will get there. Until then, stay happy, stay healthy, and have a lovely time wherever you are on the planet.
And remember: love yourself. And others.
Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease): Basics: What is a novel coronavirus?. Available: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/faq.html. Last accessed 12th December 2020.
Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease): Different COVID-19 Vaccines. Available: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/different-vaccines.html. Last accessed 12th December 2020.
Gavi. (2020). There are four types of COVID-19 vaccines: here’s how they work. Available: https://www.gavi.org/vaccineswork/there-are-four-types-covid-19-vaccines-heres-how-they-work#:~:text=The%20four%20main%20types%20of,acid%20(RNA%20and%20DNA). Last accessed 12th December 2020.
John Hopkins. (2020). COVID-19 Dashboard by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at John Hopkins University (JHU). Available: https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html. Last accessed 12th December 2020.
Matthew, C. (2015). Who discovered messenger RNA? Current Biology. 25 (13).
Merryn Voysey, DPhil * Sue Ann Costa Clemens, PhD * Shabir A Madhi, PhD * Lily Y Weckx, PhD * Pedro M Folegatti, MD * Parvinder K Aley, PhD Brian Angus, MD Vicky L Baillie, PhD Shaun L Barnabas +++. (2020). Safety and efficacy of the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine (AZD1222) against SARS-CoV-2: an interim analysis of four randomised controlled trials in Brazil, South Africa, and the UK. The Lancet.
Please note, there are several other authors for this research who would not fit on the reference generating software which I use. For the full list, please see the link below.
Roberts, M. (2020). Oxford Covid vaccine ‘safe and effective’ study shows. Available: https://www.bbc.com/news/health-55228422. Last accessed 12th December 2020.
Tyrrell DAJ, Myint SH. Coronaviruses. In: Baron S, editor. Medical Microbiology. 4th edition. Galveston (TX): University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston; 1996. Chapter 60. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK7782/
The World Health Organization. (2020). Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Vaccine research and development. Available: https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/coronavirus-disease-(covid-19)-vaccine-research-and-development. Last accessed 12th December 2020.
A bit about the author:
I am a guy who just over 40, who is sharing a journey of weight management and wellbeing.I am also a mental health professional with a wealth of years of experience in supporting individuals who have challenging mental illnesses and personality disorders.
Prior to my current professional role, I spent several years supporting members of the community as a fitness professional, assisting individuals with weight loss and health improvement programmes.
I completed a PGDip in Mental Health Nursing in 2013, and an MSc in Advanced Practice in 2016 in which I looked at improving nurses’ level of engagement with patients with challenging personality disorders.
In 2018 I successfully undertook a Clinical reasoning in Physical Assessments course, and in 2020 I commenced further training in Nurse Prescribing to train toward becoming an Advanced Nurse Practitioner.
In 2015 I also undertook a Mentorship for practice (BSc Hons) course and have been supporting future nurses with their training and development. I have also recently supported a Healthcare Assistant Staff toward training in and successfully passing and achieving a Foundation Degree in Mental Health Nursing.
In my current role I am a person looking to support the physical and mental health and wellbeing of the individual. As part of my role within the health services in supporting individuals with mental health care needs, I am also currently looking to develop myself as a Wellness Coach, to support the individual with weekly wellness blogs, with the view to support individuals on a 1:1 basis as well as holding motivational lectures and seminars.