The epidemic of new coronavirus pneumonia is still raging around the world, and scientists from various countries are accelerating the pace of research and development of vaccines.
Some analysts said that even finding a new coronavirus pneumonia treatment plan is not enough to deal with this "pandemic", and achieving global immunization still needs to rely on vaccines, and this process is destined to face many obstacles.
According to a report on April 4 by the Guardian, even the most effective and severe new coronavirus containment strategy only slowed the spread of the virus.
In order to cope with the new coronavirus pneumonia that has constituted a global pandemic, vaccines are a way to avoid human illness, and its research and development prospects have attracted much attention.
According to the report, there are currently about 35 companies and academic institutions competing to develop new coronavirus vaccines, at least four of which have already been tested on new coronavirus vaccine candidates.
This unprecedented speed of research and development is largely due to China's early efforts to sequence new coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) genes.
In early January of this year, China shared the genetic sequence information of this virus, so that research teams around the world can cultivate a live virus and study how it invades human cells and makes people sick.
Another reason why vaccine development seems to be progressing rapidly is that the virus that causes the new coronavirus pneumonia shares 80% to 90% of the genetic material with the virus that causes "SARS", both of which are composed of a single ribonucleic acid (RNA) .
The working principle of all vaccines is similar, that is, to provide some or all pathogens to the human immune system to stimulate the body's immune memory. Some current candidate vaccines are based on other coronavirus vaccines previously developed.
The Guardian also pointed out that although scientists from various countries are rapidly developing vaccines, this process is destined to be full of obstacles. The most error-prone phase of the R & D process is the clinical trial or human trials.
Clinical trials are usually carried out in three phases: the first phase involves dozens of healthy volunteers, and the safety of the vaccine is tested by monitoring its adverse reactions; the second phase usually involves hundreds of people in areas affected by the disease. Study the effectiveness of the vaccine; in the third stage, thousands of people are involved, and the effectiveness of the vaccine is also studied.
This is the basic premise for regulatory agencies to approve the production of vaccines, but not all candidate vaccines can successfully pass these three stages.
"Like most vaccinologists, I don’t think this vaccine will be ready before 18 months," says Annelies Wilder-Smith, professor of emerging infectious diseases at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. That’s already extremely fast, and it assumes there will be no hitches.
In addition to the difficulty in developing safe and effective vaccines, it is also difficult to produce vaccines in large quantities. It is reported that many organizations developing new coronavirus vaccines simply do not have the capacity to mass-produce this vaccine.
Vaccine research and development itself is a risky business, and production facilities often need to be tailored to specific vaccines. It is not commercially feasible to expand the scale of production when the benefits cannot be confirmed.
At the same time, even when the vaccine is completed, it will face political and economic obstacles to large-scale vaccination.
Jonathan Quick, a global health expert at Duke University, pointed out that virus biology and vaccine technology may be the limiting factors in the early stage, and the realization of the global immunization program needs to remove political and economic obstacles.
The report further interpreted that the question of deciding who gets the vaccine within a country has become a challenge. In the context of the global new coronavirus pandemic, there is still competition among countries.
The epidemic often hits the countries with the most vulnerable medical systems and underfunded the most.
In terms of vaccines, there will also be an imbalance between demand and purchasing power.
This is being debated, but it will be a while before we see how it plays out. The pandemic, says Wilder-Smith, "will probably have peaked and declined before a vaccine is available".
A vaccine could still save many lives, especially if the virus becomes endemic or perennially circulating – like flu – and there are further, possibly seasonal, outbreaks. But until then, our best hope is to contain the disease as far as possible. To repeat the sage advice: wash your hands.