The Search for Covid-19 Vaccine

scientist looking thru microscope for vaccineAbout Coronaviruses

Corona viruses (of which there are over 100 types) infect birds and mammals with varied degrees to damage to the respiratory and other systems.  When these viruses are transmitted to people the consequences are potentially fatal. This is true of the two serious coronaviruses we have seen in the past: severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).

On the plus side, most types of these viruses did not transmit very readily to the human population and world-wide counts of cases and deaths were relatively low. This is one of the reasons why effective commercial vaccines did not become available.  There was low interest in producing a vaccine that would not be widely needed.1

Coronavirus-19 (also known as SAR-CoV-2) however, transmits much more easily than SARS or MERS, and its potentially lethal nature makes the search both essential and commercially viable.  Now reseachers are searching for a safe and effective vaccine, drawing in part on the lessons learned from SARS and MERS vaccine development. There are a number of vaccine types that may have value: including long-used inactivated or weakened whole viruses, genetically engineered proteins and the newer messenger-RNA (mRNA) technology. The New York Times reports that over 95 different vaccines are being explored.

A German company, BioNTech, tested its first human subject In April in a pilot of 12 people.  It has received FDA approval and begins this week to test its mRNA vaccine with 200 human subjects. Messenger-RNA vaccines instruct cells to produce antigens, which are proteins that help the immune system develop protection against future infection.  The advantage of this approach is that this type of vaccine is more stable than traditional vaccines and could be faster to produce.

On March 11, 2020, a woman in Seattle, WA was the first person to volunteer to receive the test vaccine.2  Several other companies have just begun their first small tests with human subjects.3

One of the most promising candidates is known as the Oxford vaccine.  Developed at the UK’s Oxford Jenner Institute, it had already passed testing last year to be deemed harmless to humans.  It has successfully protected rhesus macaque monkeys from the covid-19 virus and if given emergency approval by the FDA can be tested with humans. They plan to test more than 6,000 people by the end of May. If all goes well the first few million doses may be ready by September.4

One concern is whether the immunity conferred by vaccination will endure, or whether (like seasonal flu vaccines) it will not trigger long-lasting immunity.  For the prospective SARS and MERS vaccines, which are genetically similar to covid-19, the immunity appears to be long lasting.5

Other clinical trials in China, UK, Austria, US, Netherlands, Egypt, Australia, Colombia, and Canada are ongoing, starting soon, or are still recruiting for volunteer subjects. These trials will investigate safety, tolerability, immunogenicity, and performance. You can read about these studies in more detail at

Until a Vaccine is Found

In the meantime, even if stay-at-home orders are lifted in your community we urge you to continue to practice social distancing. What we’re seeing now in the U.S. is that in large urban areas where stay-at-home orders have been in place, the rate of new cases is dropping.  However, the overall rate of increase in the nation as a whole is increasing as rural areas are developing hot spots.

So it is important for you to continue to not only exercise social distancing, but wash your hands and keep your hands away from your face whenever you have been away from your home or others come to visit you. Wearing a mask is important if you are around others who are sick, or near people such as in any store as many people infected with this virus are symptom free, or if you are sick (to protect others).  At the very least, it reminds you to keep your unwashed hands away from your eyes, nose, mouth, and face. Keep hand sanitizer with your when you are out and used whenever finished shopping for example.

Remember to do those things that help to maintain your immune health:

If you want overall nutrient recommendations to help maintain and support the integrity of your immune system, you can try one of these:

Stay well out there!

nutrients Up Next: The search for covid-19 treatment.

  1. Padron-Regalado E. (2020). Vaccines for SARS-CoV-2: Lessons from Other Cornavirus Strains. Infec Dis Ther. Apr 23.
  2. Cohen J. (2020). Vaccine designers take first shots at COVID-19. Science. Apr 3;368(6486):14-16.
  3. Sheikh K. (2020). Pfizer Begins Human Trials of Possible Coronovirus Vaccine. New York Times. May 5.
  4. Kirkpatrick DD. (2020). In Race for a Coronavirus Vaccine, an Oxford Group Leaps Ahead. New York Times. Apr 27.
  5. Ibid. Cohen. 2020.