Dr. Chris Magryta column: COVID vaccine — what is the story?
By Dr. Chris Magryta
Salisbury Pediatric Associates
Has there ever been a successful vaccine made against a beta coronavirus? Not to my knowledge despite the common cold being represented by 30% coronaviral etiology and efforts being made in the past. Dr. Peter Hotez and his group in Texas were apparently close for SARS1 years ago before the funding dried up. There are many groups working feverishly and competitively to be the first to succeed at this major task.
To my knowledge, this is a very, very tricky vaccine effort to say the least. SARS2 is an RNA virus. RNA viruses infect and lead to the death of millions of people every year worldwide. The list of RNA viruses is: human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), hepatitis C virus (HCV), Ebola virus, Zika virus, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), influenza viruses, yellow fever virus, dengue virus, rhinoviruses (common cold), poliovirus, and measles virus. As of 2020, many of these viruses have no effective treatment or vaccine and the available vaccines are not highly effective with the exception of polio and measles.
The SARS2 virus is 29,900 base pairs long which is huge for an RNA virus. It also has the ability to self correct its replicated copies if a mistake occurs which is rare for an RNA virus. This is a unique adaptation to prevent dysfunctional viral particles from being produced and reducing viral spread. We know a lot about this virus to date but have little quality experience with a vaccine antidote. That data is forthcoming although I am less optimistic that it will be anytime soon. I am putting my money on a biological antibody to prevent death like an IL6 or CCR5 inhibitor.
The other rub is that studies being done on a SARS2 vaccine are being primarily done in young and healthy patients who are more likely to develop an immune response. This means that when it is released to the elderly, it will be a complete unknown as to the risk benefit ratio.
Dr. Chris Magryta is a physician at Salisbury Pediatric Associates. Email him at email@example.com .