Hong Kong researchers have reportedly developed a vaccine for the novel Coronavirus, which has killed 132 people and infected nearly 6,000.
Yuen Kwok-Yung, am expert on infectious diseases and professor at Hong Kong University (HKU), told South China Morning Post that his team was working on the vaccine.“We have already produced the vaccine, but it will take a long time to test on animals,” Kwok-Yung said, without giving a specific time frame on when it would be ready for patients.
HKU researchers based the virus on an influenza vaccine, which was previously invented by Kwok-Yung's team. They modified the same vaccine with a part of the surface antigen of the Coronavirus. This means that the vaccine can potentially prevent influenza and Coronavirus
The vaccine is yet to be deemed fit for human use, which can be proved only after conducting clinical trials. Kwok-Yung stated that it would take months to test the vaccine on animals and at least a year to conduct clinical trials on humans.
Kwok-Yung explained that the animal would be exposed to the virus after injecting the vaccine. “If the vaccine appears effective and safe in a number of animal species, it will go into clinical trials on humans. This takes at least one year even if expedited,” Yuen said.
Frequently Asked Questions
A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.
There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.
Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.