By Lauren Sieh
While COVID-19 is still wreaking havoc throughout the world, the race for finding a vaccine is at an all-time high.
Vaccines are designed to stimulate your immune system to create antibodies to prevent disease.
A vaccine usually takes many years to perfect and deem effective. However, due to the COVID-19, there has been a high demand to find a cure as soon as possible.
Lock Schnelle, head athletic trainer, said, “Through the media, they are hoping for early spring of 2021. I’ve also heard as late as the fall of 2021. It’s kind of all over the board.”
Dr. Tamara McEwen, associate professor of biology, said, “2021 is wishful thinking. Normally there’s a pretty long process for developing a vaccine. Usually, the quickest they can do it is 18 months to two years from when they start. It’s not feasible to get is done safely before then.”
There are many vaccine testing going on to hopefully meet that prediction. According to the New York Times coronavirus vaccine tracker, researchers are testing 45 vaccines in clinical trials and at least 91 preclinical vaccines.
There are four stages a vaccine has to go through before it is approved for full use. Those stages are preclinical, phase one, phase two and phase three.
Preclinical testing is when the vaccine is tested on animals. Phase one is the vaccine given to a small number of people to test safety and dosage. Then phase two has hundreds of people given the vaccine in groups with different ages ranges to test if the vaccine acts differently due to age.
Once phase one and two are completed, then they can move on to phase three, which tests thousands of people to determine if the vaccine protects against the virus. After they have completed all four stages, they are ready for approval.
A combined stage can also happen to accelerate the vaccine development, typically phase one and two get combined.
McEwen invited me to ask her Molecular Biology class some questions, while they are currently working on a research project about COVID-19.
Jonah Robson, biochemistry junior, said that there are about five to six companies in phase three clinical trials.
“Two are currently on hold, AstraZeneca and Johnson and Johnson. AstraZeneca had a patient with some kind of neurological issue that came up. Johnson and Johnson were explicit as to what happened, but they stopped it because somebody came down with something,” said Robson.
When a vaccine is approved, the effectiveness and distribution of the vaccine are two areas where people start to worry.
As for distribution, once a vaccine is made and approved to work, it might take months before the general public has access to it. First, the vaccine would go to the front line workers who are interacting with COVID-19 cases every day.
Then it will go to high-risk people, such as the elderly and people with medical problems. After that, it will work its way throughout the country, serving first the neediest.
Schnelle said, “At the end of the day, a healthy college student is probably going to be last on the list because generally speaking, they are going to be the least affected.”
When asked about the biggest concern regarding distribution, Savannah Joldersma, marine biology junior, said, “Distributing it equally. I know when I was reading about the 2009 influenza pandemic, a bunch of the richer countries carved out the poorer countries so that the poorer countries didn’t have any vaccines or anything to help.”
Patrick Ross, professor of biology, shared his thoughts and worries on the effectiveness of the vaccine and the Trump administration trying to rush the process of it being made.
“If there’s political pressure from the leader of our country to speed things up and skip some steps. That worries me for two reasons. It worries me for my individual safety in terms of me taking a vaccine that has been hurried through the process. More importantly, even if I feel that the vaccine is safe,” said Ross.
There is still a large number of people that are very skeptical of vaccines in general said Ross. Even if one is deemed to be safe and effective, there will still be a large number of people that just won’t take it.
If a vaccine comes out within the next year, people should be wary of it. Do your research on the vaccine you are thinking about taking to determine if it is safe for you.
Take the survey that McEwen’s class put together. They will be presenting the findings of their research project on Nov. 17 at 8 p.m. in Mossman 101.