Immunity for Community

While everyone is waiting with hope for the COVID-10 vaccine, there has been a number of news reports on companies that are making promising clinical progress. Dr. Thavirap Tantiwongse, CEO of Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association (PReMA) explains in this article the most important factors in vaccine development and the likelihood of seeing the vaccine released by the beginning of 2021.

Dr. Thavirap Tantiwongse, CEO of Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association (PReMA)


Safety First

One of the most important elements of Hippocratic Oath, which is a set of professional ethical standards for physicians written by Hippocrates “The Father of Medicine” over 2500 years ago, is “First, do no harm” (Greek: “primum non nocere”). This lays the foundation for the global medical community to prioritize safety above all else. It also applies to drug and vaccine development, which are two different things. Vaccines are given to healthy people, so we need to monitor both short-term and long-term outcomes, as well as other factors, such as their effects on people with different ethnicity, age, or genetics.

Through clinical trials, we also need to test the vaccine efficacy and how well it can build immunity in people of different ages, genders, and ethnicities.

So far, there are eight vaccines which have reached the clinical safety and efficacy testing stage.


How likely is it to have the vaccine by 2021?

So far, there are eight vaccines which have reached the clinical safety and efficacy testing stage. Typically, vaccine development is a complex process that takes around 10 years to complete to ensure absolute safety.


“First, do no harm” — The Hippocratic Oath, Hippocrates “The Father of Medicine”

We have to clinically assess the vaccine efficacy in a small group of people, then move on to larger trials. Once it has been deemed safe, the test expands to the general population. The question is how feasible is it to shorten this whole process down to 10 months? With today’s technology and innovation, we may be able to accelerate the research and the production processes by investing more resources into it. However, safety requires time and long-term monitoring, we cannot compromise it for the sake of speeding the process up.

The pandemic will not end as soon as we discover the vaccine but we need to consider all of these factors:

1. Can we produce enough vaccine?

2. Will we be able to give the vaccine to everybody?

3. Can the vaccine build enough immunity to prevent further spread?

4. How long will the vaccine-induced immunity last? Shorter duration of vaccine protection means more frequent vaccination is needed. On the other hand, if the vaccine triggers overreaction in the immune system, it could inadvertently lead to “cytokine storm” or the condition in which the respiratory system is damaged by the overstimulated immune system.

In short, we could see the vaccine in 10 months but it’s hard to say how safe it would be.

Changing behaviors and good hygiene will build immunity for society

We can see that the COVID-19 pandemic was caused by the unhygienic behaviours of humans, similar to how MERS, Ebola, and SARS got started. Vaccine research is driven by people’s desire to return to “the old way.” But keep in mind that the old way is the cause of most pandemics. Therefore a more proactive approach to prevent a virus outbreak is to ingrain hygienic behaviors in everyone’s minds.

Controls for creating happiness between building a COVID-19 house for society and communities