Vaccine futures

Have we reached the point where we can speculate about vaccine timelines?

John Skylar, PhD

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“When will we have a vaccine?” is a question that I get asked on the regular. I think when the pandemic started, this was anybody’s guess, but with several vaccines entering Phase 3 trials, we are nearing the point where we can begin to speculate about the answer.

The first thing we need to understand is the different types of vaccines. The Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines are both nucleic acid vaccines; they include an mRNA that codes for critical parts of the virus, hoping to enlist the patient’s own cells to produce these components and create an immune response. This is a relatively untested vaccine design, and so their early results showing strong immune responses are very impressive for the technological concept as a whole — even if we can’t be sure that the immune response seen is protective.

Another vaccine concept is the ChAdOx vaccine. This is being developed jointly by Oxford University and the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca. It uses a chimpanzee adenovirus — similar to a human upper respiratory virus that causes colds — that has been genetically altered so that it cannot replicate in humans. This virus has also been altered to produce the “spike glycoprotein” (S) of the virus that causes COVID-19. For what it’s worth, the mRNA-based vaccines also target the S protein.

Here’s a video describing human trials for the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine:

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John Skylar, PhD

Virologist, author, damn fool. Also found at www.johnskylar.com and www.betterworlds.org. Opinions my own, impressions yours.