Is a vaccine available?
Text updated on 2020-04-29
Not yet. About 100 candidate vaccines are being studied to determine which one will be non-toxic and effective in protecting us against SARS-CoV-2.
Research is under way in several countries, allowing several vaccine leads to be explored in parallel. A vaccine is a means of stimulating the immune response, through the production of memory cells (or white blood cells or lymphocytes). These memory cells are capable of secreting antibodies specifically directed against an infectious agent or of recognizing and killing cells specifically infected by the same agent. The principle of the vaccine is to expose the organism to the infectious agent, in this case the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, without triggering the disease. Different pieces of the virus are used, as well as different ways of getting them into the body. It is not possible to predict which piece will be most effective for vaccination and free of side effects. This is why many tests are needed to validate candidate vaccines and why the process can take several years, given that the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus was only discovered very recently, on January 9, 2020. Vaccines against the other coronaviruses infecting humans, SARS-CoV-1 and MERS-CoV, began to be developed a few years ago, but clinical trials have not been completed because the urgency associated with these vaccines has disappeared.
Another challenge is to produce the vaccine in large enough quantities for global distribution. Among the hundred or so candidate vaccines against the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, the results of the first vaccines, and this would be a major feat, are expected in early 2021. Although this is too long a timeframe for the current epidemic peak, these vaccines could protect us from a possible epidemic rebound, or help us develop vaccines against other emerging coronaviruses more quickly in the future.