By Wazir Zafar Hassan
Corona pandemic is considered as the most lethal event after the World Wars. So far more than 12 million people have been affected by this virus out of which more than 0.5 million people have lost the fight against this virus. The normal routine of life is completely disturbed. Many industries and institutions are closed until now. The public gathering is banned. The world’s economy is badly affected. The only hope that could save us from this deadly virus is the manufacture of its vaccine. A vaccine is an agent that encourages antibodies production and provide immunity against a certain virus. When a pathogen attacks our body to infect it, then our immune system reacts. Our immune system has three main jobs. The first one is to perceive the pathogen. The second job is to remove these pathogens from the body by fighting against them. And the third business is to memorize the pathogen so that the body may behave effectively against the pathogen in future. Thus, when a person is vaccinated, the vaccine prepares the immune system of a body to identify and destroy the pathogen. The vaccine will give our immune system a memory that how to behave against this pathogen. In this way, our immune system will be able to provide an effective response.
Very often, the pathogen itself is present in the vaccine in various forms. In some vaccines, the dead body of pathogen is present. Sometimes, the weakened form of the pathogen is present in the vaccine. So, there are several types of vaccines that can be made. Live attenuated vaccines are derived by weakening the pathogen, without killing it entirely. These are weakened in a laboratory by repeated culturing. Such kind of vaccine is used against smallpox and chickenpox virus. If a vaccine is made by killing a pathogen and by using its dead body, then such kind of vaccines is known as an inactivated vaccine. This type of vaccine is used against flu, polio and rabies. In addition to these two types, there are several other types of vaccines. The method of operation may vary but the outcomes of all vaccines are the same. They provide immunity against pathogens.
There are several stages after which a vaccine is given access to the markets. First of all, after the manufacture of a vaccine, it is tested on animals. This stage is called pre-clinical trials. Then, over three different phases, the efficacy of a vaccine is tested. The fourth stage involves the approval of the vaccine. After pre-clinical trials, the vaccine is tested on humans. In the first step, the experimental vaccine is given to 20 to 80 people and check whether it stimulates the immune system or not. If the body does not show any response then the vaccine is rejected. In phase 2 trials, a larger group of several hundred people are tested with a vaccine. If the vaccine does not show certain side effects, the vaccine enters the phase 3 trials. The vaccine is given to thousands of people in this stage. Scientists carefully observe the response of the immune system against the pathogen. These trials determine whether the vaccine is effective against certain virus or not. The volunteers may face severe reactions if the vaccine fails to work properly. During a pandemic, a vaccine may receive emergency use authorization before a formal green signal and we can expect this circumstance in the COVID-19 vaccine’s case.
Now a question arises that how long does it take to manufacture a vaccine? Production of vaccine is a time taking process. Normally it may take several years. Scientists from all over the world are determined to prepare a COVID-19 vaccine as early as possible. Thus experts believe, the vaccine might be developed within one to one and a half years. The fastest vaccine to have ever been prepared was that of mumps which took about five years to develop. While there are some viruses, the vaccines of which have not been developed until now i.e. the vaccine of HIV has not been made yet. According to the World Health Organization, 13 experimental vaccines are being tested in humans and the results were pleasing. More than 120 others are in their earlier stages of development. It has become the most important scientific research in the world. Some universities have paused other projects to work on the development of COVID-19 vaccine. Many vaccines for instance the vaccine of the University of Oxford has been entered in phase 2. And soon it will enter phase 3. The ones manufactured by Moderna company of the USA, China’s Sinovac Biotech, and Oxford’s are set to enter next stage trials. Six vaccines of China have been tested on humans so we can say China is a leading candidate in this regard. We were expecting the vaccine to be manufactured by the end of 2021 but experts believe that there is a possibility that the vaccine will be synthesized by the end of this year. Some scientists believe that the coronavirus is becoming weak so before the vaccine coronavirus cases may be declined considerably. If all goes well, the vaccine for emergency use may be synthesized by November or December, but the distribution will be possible in the next year. The vaccine will be distributed all over the world so it will take plentiful time. There may run different vaccine programs like in the case of polio vaccine. The whole process may take even a year or more. The World Health Organization’s Solidarity Trial, the UK’s Recovery Trial, and the US’s Operation warp Speed are three of the leading scientific struggles spinning research in the war against COVID-19.
Every day we are getting close to the COVID-19 vaccine but until the availability of the vaccine in the markets, we must be careful and follow standard operating measures. The coronavirus is human to human transmitting virus. This capability makes the virus more hazardous. We must maintain social distancing to avoid the spread of the virus. In this way, we can save us and our loved ones. Hope for the good, the vaccine against this virus will be available soon. We will win this war. Insha’Allah.