Here is what you need to know about COVID-19 vaccines

You don’t need me to tell you about why I am sharing this post. You all know the situation.

But it also means that there is a lot of talk about a potential vaccine and it is something hundreds of researchers are working on across the world. But vaccine development under normal circumstances takes years, maybe even decades, not the months some people are currently quoting. So, over on my Instagram page, I’ve been sharing a series of posts about vaccines – the different types, what they do, how they are developed, what needs to happen to get a coronavirus vaccine sooner than a decades time and more. But I also wanted to share those posts here so all that information is in one easy place to find. And of course, if there are ANY questions you have about vaccines or potential coronavirus vaccines and the trials that are currently going on, please get in contact with me so we can break it down together.

Before I share the vaccines posts, I also wanted to share this really awesome resource that I came across from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. It is a coronavirus vaccine development tracker and you can find it here. Each week the team are updating this with the latest information and it tells you what type of vaccines are being tested and at what stage they are at. All of which the below posts will help you make sense of too.

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Last week, clinical trials started in the UK testing a potential coronavirus vaccine ๐Ÿ’‰ . I shared that update in my stories with you & I got heaps of questions about vaccines ๐Ÿ’‰ from you which I've been making into a mini series of posts which the next few will be. . Today I want to start with the different types of vaccines ๐Ÿ’‰there can be, & what the two leading UK teams have been working on. . Vaccines are a treatment that mimics the infection of a pathogen in our bodies. This kicks our immune system into operation so our bodies can produce antibodies against whatever pathogen that might be – in this case the SARS-CoV-2 virus. That way when a vaccinated person encounters the pathogen they can recover more quickly. . Vaccines can be made in a few different ways: . There are whole pathogen vaccines which can be inactive or live attenuated aka weaker versions. These vaccines contain the whole pathogen in them but those pathogens have been altered so they should not cause severe disease but can help your body prepare. . There are subunit or conjugate vaccines which use a piece of the pathogen. These most likely contain the surface proteins of the pathogen & in this case, the spike protein the coronavirus uses to enter our cells. Or there is a newer method using nucleic acids aka the DNA ๐Ÿงฌ or the RNA of the pathogen. These molecules that code for viral proteins enter human cells, copies of the viral proteins are produced to trigger that immune response. Currently there are no licensed nucleic acid vaccines! But this is the type that the Imperial team are working on. They are creating a synthetic RNA vaccine, which are safer & easier to develop as there is no need for lots of virus to be hanging around. . There are also viral vector vaccines. These would be genetically engineered viruses that can use our cells to create the proteins of the pathogen in question. Again it is those proteins that sound the alarm to our immune system. This is the type that the Oxford team are working on to produce that recognisable coronavirus spike protein. . That's a wrap on Part 1. Ask any questions on what you have read here in the comments or any other vaccine ๐Ÿ’‰ Qs you have ๐Ÿ™‚

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How do we get from pathogen to developing a vaccine ๐Ÿ’‰ that leaves us with a little plaster on our arm? . Remember those different types of vaccines I talked about in my previous vaccine post? Well, each of those takes a slightly different about of time. The nucleic acid ones are the quickest to make, followed by the subunit vaccines, and the whole pathogen vaccines take the longest. The time it takes to get something that can be given time the public is normally between 10-15 years. . It starts with discovery science. 2-5 years of lab work looking for possible options. Then comes the pre-clinical studies which usually take around 2 years and may involve animal testing to see if they are suitable for humans. . Once there is a good vaccine option from pre-clinical studies, they are ready embark on the journey that is clinical trials . Phase 1 involves 10s of volunteers usually where we are looking if the vaccine elicits an immune response and if there are any safety concerns. Usually takes around 2 years. . Once that is passed, phase 2 enrols 100s of volunteers. Things tend to get a little more specific here looking at dosage, number of doses, but still safety and if there is an immune response. Usually another 2-3 years. . It's at this stage that most vaccines or drugs dont seem to make it through. . Phase 3 means even more volunteers, thousands to tens if thousands! Now we are really looking at how efficient a vaccine is. We want to know not only if it sparks an immune response but if it is actually preventing the disease. This usually takes around 5-10 years. . Only if a vaccine passes this phase can it become licensed and move onto manufacturing. And only gets approvals if it is effective, but also if the benefits outweight the risks. . This is how it works roughly under normal circumstances. Our current situation is not normal so this pipeline needs some tweaking. I will go into that in more detail in my next post. But for now if there are any Qs on the usual vaccine development process, ask away in comments or DMs . ๐Ÿ’‰

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What has to happen to get a COVID-19 vaccine in months, NOT years?? ๐Ÿค” . Vaccine development ๐Ÿ’‰is a lonnngg process. It can take up to 15 years! I went through the different stages in my previous vaccine post. But when some are saying we need a vaccine to go "back to normal" – how do we speed this process up? Because I dont know about you, but I dont wanna wait 15 years! . To do this quickly & safely, we need to throw the current plans in the bin & start again. We need a new plan, a head start & as many stages working alongside each other as possible. And yea that does mean we have to move on to the next stage without fully knowing what works & what doesnt. Which could come at a price…. . We need a HUGE investment upfront to get things moving. A huge investment in the region of $2 billion for development & another billion for manufacturing! A lack of funding could be really critical to the speed of any potential vaccine. But why? . Upfront funds allows researchers to do those multiple phases at the same time. But also allow loads of different groups to work on many different possible vaccine options. We dont know what type of vaccine will work, if any, so in a crisis we need to keep our options open. . We need to fund clinical trials across the world so we can find an option that works for EVERYONE. And if all that works, we need to find a way of making enough for everyone, & a way of distributing it to everyone. This is a scale that I dont believe any country has the capacity to do, so we need to invest in those areas to make sure that when we have a good candidate we can get it out there, and fast! . Getting a vaccine to a novel pathogen in a matter of months is a ridiculously challenging task. Not only do we need funding to be able to get the ball rolling, we need EVERY stage to go smoothly & according to plan, which in science doesnt really happen. . So not to end on too much doom and gloom but the reality is that a vaccine in a matter of months is unlikely to happen IMO. But this is why the distancing guidelines that are put in place MUST be adhered to! We MUST avoid a second peak! . If this was valuable, please share! Qs below ๐Ÿ‘‡๐Ÿผ๐Ÿ‘‡๐Ÿผ

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