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A Race to the Vaccine: Updates on Possible COVID-19 Treatments

In an act of global solidarity, there is an unprecedented race towards finding a cure for the novel coronavirus. Here are the latest COVID-19 vaccine developments taking place around the world.

The Big Picture:

  • The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the normally 10-15 year-long process of producing a vaccine, taking only 42 days for researchers to move onto the first testable vaccine.
  • Testable does not equal successful, however, and there are currently more than 130 vaccine candidates worldwide.
  • At least 10 of which are in various stages of a clinical trial, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

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Ownership: Despite an expert from the WHO announcing last week that they’re also planning who should get the first doses once the COVID-19 vaccine is approved, the question of who will own rights to the vaccine when it arrives and how it will be distributed remains open for debate.

  • The main consensus seems to be front-line healthcare workers, the immunocompromised, and other vulnerable populations.
  • Last Thursday, chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan from the WHO stated that they hope the novel coronavirus vaccine can be produced this year, with two billion doses distributed by the end of 2021. 
  • However, the announcement was met with some skepticism. In an interview with Byram Bridle, a viral immunologist at the University of Guelph, on The West Block, he said this time frame is “highly improbable”. 

Amongst the current clinical trials, there are optimistic results:

  • Last week, the WHO stated in a news release that initial clinical trial results from the UK proved that steroid dexamethasone can save critically ill patients of COVID-19.
  • The drug does not prevent COVID-19 nor is it effective in patients with milder symptoms. 

Labs around the world are working on various models for vaccines, from cross-referencing similar treatments used for viruses such as Ebola, Zika and SARS, to looking at DNA-based vaccines.

The Bottom Line:

As the race to find a vaccine continues, it seems global solidarity is perpetuating a worldwide teamwork-mentality to help each other out. In these peculiar times, the “norms” are shifting ever constantly, which is not always a bad thing.

  • New possible treatments are emerging, and though they are not yet able to prevent COVID-19, it is a positive development that there are treatments available to help those in critical condition.
  • As restrictions lessen depending on the country, it is still important to remain vigilant and safe, individually and as a whole.