The COVID-19 Vaccine currently under development by the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom (in conjunction with the pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca) has been proven to generate antibodies and T-cells in humans capable of fighting the Coronavirus. The vaccine wasn’t derived from COVID-19, but a heavily modified version of the virus that causes the common cold in chimpanzees. It does, however, contain the genetic instructions of spike protein, COVID’s main weapon used to invade host cells.
As of now, the vaccine shows no dangerous side effects. The only visible side effects have been fever/headache, experienced by 70% of the subjects. These are common side effects of many popular vaccines around the world, including Measles and Tetanus.
The United Kingdom government has already ordered 100 million doses of this vaccine. However, it is difficult to prove whether the vaccine can provide immunity against the virus or even lessen its effects, and all trials currently scheduled seek to prove that the vaccine is safe for human injection. The only way to truly test its effectiveness is by performing ‘challenge trials’, involving deliberate infection of vaccinated subjects. Such trials are not in the works due to ethical concerns because of the lack of backup treatments if the vaccine proves to be ineffective in any particular case.
Even if the vaccine is proved safe, it will presumably be a long time before it makes its way to Indian shores. Even when it does, the safety of frontline workers such as doctors and nurses will be the top priority, followed by those belonging to the higher age group and having pre-existing conditions that put them in the high-risk group.
Even still, this news provides a glimmer of hope amidst the horror-show of numbers that we’ve become desensitized to, as the pandemic rages on.