Monday, February 08, 2021

vaccines revolution

By mid January, a year after the novel coronavirus was formally identified and sequenced, eight new vaccines of three different types were approved in full or in emergency mode by at least one country. So I though this was a good time to have a look at how this miracle happened. Especially here in the UK we're still rubbing our eyes a bit as it is about the only aspect of the Covid response that has worked better than expected (so far).

As part of the special treatment for Covid related information, my feature has been available as an open access preprint for the last two weeks, but today it is officially out in the proper format, and still on open access:

How to develop 8 vaccines in 12 months

Current Biology Volume 31, issue 03, pages R101-R103, February 08, 2021

access to full text and PDF download
This is currently on open access as part of the general Covid-19 info policy from Cell Press. Should that change, it will become open access again one year after publication

Any problems with the link above, try the:

Magic link for free access
(first seven weeks only)

Although the new vaccines have materialised at record speed, they have been tested as thoroughly as any previous vaccines. (Photo: Lisa Ferdinando/US Secretary of Defense (CC BY 2.0).)

Looking ahead, I do hope that the success story of vaccine developments also translates into successful elimination of the disease, but it's too early to start victory celebrations. One thing I worry about here in the UK is the large gap between first and second dose which produces two problems:

1) patients feeling somewhat protected by the first dose increasing their risk behaviour may very well overcompensate the extent of protection they have. So if their infection risk is reduced by a factor of 2 but they are having 3 times as many risky encounters, they may in the end be more likely to catch it. So the only relaxing (of rules and precautions) should be happening as a function of second doses given, not of first ones.

2) having a vast population partially protected and still exposed to the virus could be a breeding ground for mutants resistant to the vaccine.

So, in the UK in particular, given how Johnson's government has mishandled and amplified the first and the second wave, I wouldn't rule out the possibility that they are cutting corners again and thereby facilitating the third wave.

PS In nerdy note-taking news, this feature completes 10 years since I started writing a feature for every issue of CB. Since issue 4 of 2011, there have been 235 features in 240 issues, so it worked out quite nicely, even if I say so myself.

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