2 minute read. Written by Vania Arora, A grade 6 student (archived piece – written in March 2020)
The Coronavirus disease, known as the COVID-19 is now spread in every continent in the world except Antarctica and has been identified as a pandemic. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 has no vaccine at the moment and the only way to lessen the effects is by treating the symptoms. Developing a vaccine for Coronavirus is vital as the illness is potentially fatal, especially amongst senior citizens and people with pre-existing medical conditions.
Research and development of a vaccine is being undertaken by over 35 countries around the world. Fifteen companies including Gilead Sciences Inc., BioNTech SE and Glaxo Smithkline are actively working on finding a solution to this pandemic. At least four companies have started animal trials and four patients have received the injection at the Kaiser Permanente research facility in Seattle. Since it is in the initial stage, the experts say that it may take months to know if this vaccine will work. Annelies Wilder-Smith, professor of emerging infectious diseases at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine says that “Like most vaccinologists, I don’t think this vaccine will be ready before 18 months.” Further, once a vaccine has been approved, more challenges will present itself. Not only would the vaccines be needed in huge quantities, but also experts have shared that safety and effectiveness of the vaccine will need to be tested over a period of time. Some researchers have shared that it may take over a year to come up with something effective against COVID-19.
A vaccine works by helping the immune system recognize and fight against pathogens (meaning viruses, bacteria or other disease causing microorganisms). Vaccines are for different purposes and diseases but they all follow a basic principle.
The vaccine actually puts the virus into the body – certain molecules from the pathogen are introduced into the body to trigger an immune response. These molecules are called antigens, and they are present on all viruses and bacteria. Once these antigens are injected into the body, the immune system slowly learns to recognize them as intruders (someone who enters without permission). The body then starts to produce antibodies (that help fight the virus) which will help in recognising the antigens if they enter the body again, and attack them before they can cause sickness.
The best part about vaccines is that they work on an individual as well as a group level. Once enough people are immunized, the possibility of a community getting sick reduces. This phenomenon is called “herd immunity” or “community immunity”.
Hopefully the medical professionals around the world will be able to develop a vaccine and treatment against this virus and countries can resume their normal lives again.
Written by Vania Arora.
Vania is a grade 5 (going to 6) student. She loves to read, draw and experience new things and places.
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