Researchers at Yale University discovered that COVID-19 can infect the neurons in the brain. According to their data, the virus hijacks the machinery inside the neurons to make copies of itself. As it does this, it drains oxygen from nearby brain cells. The impact this has on long-term neurological function isn’t known yet because the virus is still so new to humans.
This information brings to highlights just how much we don’t know and the need to control the virus. One of the main focuses has been on vaccine development. A significant amount of progress has been made in just a few months. Several public health experts have stated that they feel there will be a vaccine that is to be proven effective by the end of the year. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said, “I feel cautiously optimistic that we will have a vaccine by the end of this calendar year, as we get into early 2021.”
Having a safe vaccine doesn’t mean that it’ll be available immediately. As Dr. Fauci puts it, “It’s not going to be turning a switch off and turning the switch on. It’s going to be gradual.” Once developed, the vaccine has to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The vaccine most likely won’t be authorized to for all people, but targeted groups instead. This gets to the second point, distribution.
It takes time for manufactures to make and transport the doses to where they need to go. Experts think that it’ll take two doses to achieve protection, which means that over 600 million doses will be required. To protect those at high risk, these are the individuals that will receive the initial shipments. Despite the idea that some people have that the vaccine will provide the herd immunity, it isn’t going to happen right away.
Experts indicate that if the process were seamless, the COVID-19 vaccine would be widely distributed by mid to late next year. The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Dr. Robert Redfield, said for a vaccine to be “fully available to the American public, so we begin to take advantage of vaccine to get back to our regular life. I think we are probably looking at late second quarter, third quarter 2021.” However, this is unlikely to be the case.
The apprehension comes from the belief that the US isn’t ready to handle the demand for the production of the vaccine. This is a valid concern since the only mass vaccination program the country does every year is for the annual flu vaccine. With only half of Americans getting it, manufacturers make and distribute less than 150 million doses. Since it’ll take four times that to have a COVID vaccine available, how this is going to be accomplished remains to be seen. In addition, who’s going to keep track of when people should receive their second dose?
As the road to a vaccine continues, other scientists are looking toward possible treatment options. Eli Lilly recently announced that an experimental drug could significantly reduce levels of the virus in newly infected patients. This lowered the chances of these individuals needing to be hospitalized. The drug is a monoclonal antibody, a manmade copy of an antibody produced by a person who has recovered from COVID-19. The news of the drug’s success is promising since work on monoclonal antibodies is often slow and challenging. In addition, it’s expensive.
It’s important to note that the statement didn’t provide detailed information and the results still need to be reviewed by independent scientists. Also, the outcomes haven’t been published in a peer-reviewed journal yet. However, the researchers are hopeful that this will be the answer to treating patients who have mild to moderate cases of the disease.