In mid-January, Washington state experienced its first case of an individual who tested positive for the coronavirus. Now, researchers based in the Pacific-Northwest state have developed a vaccine that they hope is the answer to treating the illness.
According to the Associated Press, medical officials administered the vaccine to four volunteers, all in good health, on Monday (March 16). The research will monitor side effects, how the vaccine supports the immune system, and how the medicine can stop the virus’ mutation by blocking a protein titled “spike” which allows the virus to attack healthy cells.
One of the test’s leaders, Dr. Lisa Jackson, also stressed that while this is a breakthrough of sorts, it’s still too early to sign off on administering the vaccine to the masses. “We don’t know whether this vaccine will induce an immune response or whether it will be safe,” Jackson said per the AP. “That’s why we’re doing a trial. It’s not at the stage where it would be possible or prudent to give it to the general population.” It’s also important to note that unlike flu shots that contain a harmless or weakened genetic sequence of the cold, the potential COVID-19 vaccine doesn’t contain the virus itself so volunteers signing up for research will not become diagnosed with the illness.
The U.S. National Institutes of Health’s Dr. Anthony Fauci stated that although a vaccine is still being developed and tested, people who’ve tested positive for the virus might not receive the medication “for 12 to 18 months.” While the medical field awaits a successful trial run of a vaccine, medical technology companies are working to mass produce tests that’ll reveal results within two hours. According to TIME, Becton Dickson (BD) is planning to gain approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to approve that fast-acting testing kit for those stateside who believe they’ve contracted the coronavirus. Tests from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) currently take up to 24 hours to reveal results.
In China and countries in Europe, officials have began using the testing equipment from BD to gain adequate numbers of those who’ve been diagnosed with the virus, and leading them to be quarantined and receive medical attention while ultimately slowing down the rate as to which the virus has been spreading. In a report by Vox, Donald Trump and his administration’s slow response to the outbreak has rattled the timeline of when medical officials can adequately treat patients. The amount of testing kits that could’ve been divvied out upon the virus’ initial outbreak might’ve presented a chance to outpace the contagion.