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The first coronavirus vaccine may not be able to prevent infection

Published Jun 15th, 2020 2:44PM EDT
Coronavirus Vaccine Update
Image: Sebastiao Moreira/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

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  • Without a coronavirus vaccine, COVID-19 may linger for another two years, according to some researchers.
  • The first coronavirus vaccine, however, may not be a cure-all and may not be able to prevent initial infection.

In the absence of an effective coronavirus vaccine, a second wave of infections will be something of an inevitability. Especially now that states are reopening after a multi-month lockdown, there has been no shortage of stories detailing how people are not adhering to social distancing measures and other safety guidelines.

Put simply, the number of coronavirus cases may jump significantly due to community spread over the next few weeks. In fact, some states — like Arizona and Florida — are already seeing huge spikes in the number of coronavirus cases. Without a vaccine, researchers from the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota recently said that the coronavirus might persist for another two years.

Scientists and researchers, meanwhile, continue to work around the clock on any number of coronavirus vaccine candidates. Just last week, for example, we reported that the Army is working on a coronavirus vaccine that could prove to be effective at combating all coronavirus strains. That particular vaccine will reportedly begin human testing this summer and, if all goes well, might yield a vaccine as soon as late 2020.

The first coronavirus vaccine, however, may not be the cure-all we’ve been led to believe. As Bloomberg points out, the first incarnation of a coronavirus vaccine may not necessarily prevent infection but, rather, would effectively stop an individual from experiencing severe symptoms of the COVID-19 disease:

At least one of the fastest-moving experimental shots has already advanced into human trials after showing an impact on severe disease — but less so on infection — in animals. Experts say such a product would probably be widely used if approved, even if that’s as much as it contributes, until a more effective version comes to market.

“Vaccines need to protect against disease, not necessarily infection,” said Dennis Burton, an immunologist and vaccine researcher at Scripps Research in La Jolla, California.

The risk associated with the type of vaccine above is that it might lead to asymptomatic individuals inadvertently spreading it to others. Of course, this risk would be dramatically lessened if people continue to wear masks and follow social distancing guidelines. Unfortunately, it seems that many people are confusing the economy opening back up with the coronavirus having being conquered.

Incidentally, it’s worth noting that the World Health Organization (WHO) recently said that asymptomatic spread of the coronavirus is not nearly as common or widespread as initially believed.

Just last week, WHO’s Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove said: “From the data we have, it still seems to be rare that an asymptomatic person actually transmits onward to a secondary individual.”

And while that is encouraging, it sometimes seems as if the message we’re getting from organizations and researchers is prone to changing week to week. That notwithstanding, there’s no denying that a coronavirus vaccine in any form, even one with initial limitations, would be a huge and welcome achievement.

Yoni Heisler Contributing Writer

Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large with over 15 years of experience. A life long expert Mac user and Apple expert, his writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and TUAW.

When not analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions.

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