The path towards a coronavirus vaccine has been tumultuous, but a new trial from Oxford University is showing the most promise to date in developing an immune response to covid-19.
The study of 1,077 people showed that the developed injection produced antibodies and T cells to fight the coronavirus. The vaccine is created using a genetically engineered virus that causes the common cold in chimpanzees. Scientists altered it by transferring the genetic instructions for the coronavirus’s “spike protein,” the crucial tool it uses to invade our cells, to the vaccine they were developing. In this way, the vaccine looks like the coronavirus and trains our bodies how to attack it.
The focal point of Covid-19 immunity has been antibodies, but this is only part of the immunity puzzle. The vaccine also promotes T cell creation, a type of white blood cell which helps coordinate the immune system to spot which of the body’s cells have been infected and destroy them. The study showed 90 percent of people developed neutralizing antibodies after one dose. Ten people were given two doses and all of them produced neutralizing antibodies.
The creation of both antibodies and T-cells is encouraging, but only time will tell how long the vaccine provides protection for. It does appear that two doses of the vaccine offers the maximum level of protection from the virus.
No dangerous side effects have been observed, but nearly three quarters of trial patients did develop mild fever or headaches. The next phase of the vaccine trial will involve 10,000 participants in the UK, 30,000 in the US, 2,000 in South Africa, and 5,000 in Brazil.
While the development of a potential vaccine is promising, there are still many steps to be taken to determine the efficacy of the vaccine and ensure it is safe for mass distribution. Masks and social distancing are still our most effective tool against the virus, but a possible future vaccine is good news for preventing future outbreaks.