October 6, 2020 By [email protected]_84 Off

Katy infectious disease experts discuss COVID-19 vaccine

The COVID-19 pandemic has claimed the lives of more than 200,000 Americans, and according to infectious disease experts, no miracle cure is coming. Herd immunity, the worst-case scenario ending to the crisis, will result in the deaths of three to four million Americans.

It’s no surprise, then, that the medical community is scrambling to create a safe and effective vaccine to eradicate the virus.

But questions abound as to how- and if- the vaccine will come about. Dr. Linda Yancey, an infectious disease specialist and COVID-19 expert at Houston Methodist Hospital West, anticipates that a reliable vaccine will be available mid-2021.

Yancey understands the frustration over having to wait another several months before a vaccine is readily available to the public, but she noted that rushing a vaccine could have devastating results.

“Vaccines are very much a situation where you can have it right, or you can have it right now, and we would much rather have it right,” Yancey said.

Fortunately, according to Dr. H. Dirk Sostman, president of the Academic Institute at Houston Methodist, there are 29 COVID-19 vaccines being tested in multiple clinical trials around the world. Among these, six different COVID-19 vaccines are being tested in the final phase of clinical trial testing. Three of those are funded by the U.S. government.

While typical vaccine trials can take three or four years, Yancey said, the global scientific community is working together to expedite the process of developing a vaccine. She noted, however, that while a vaccine may be available in 2021, due to the time it takes to manufacture, distribute and administer vaccines, most Americans may not be able to get the vaccine until early 2022.

There are questions, too, about the efficacy of a vaccine, should one be developed.

Sostman stated that the FDA will only approve vaccines that prevent or reduce disease severity in at least 50 percent of those who are vaccinated.

A 50 percent efficacy rate is similar to that of the flu, Sostman added. The tetanus vaccine, by comparison, is 100 percent effective. According to Yancey, the COVID-19 vaccine will likely have a prevention rate similar to the flu shot.

Preventative rates are speculative until clinical trials reveal more data on how the vaccine works. While dozens of clinical trials are underway across the world, they all follow the same basic criteria for testing.

The chosen test subjects are high-exposure but low-risk, meaning they work in a field with high levels of COVID-19 exposure, but they are not in any high-risk categories, Yancey said. Subjects tend to be young healthcare workers in good health.

Each trial enlists thousands of subjects. Half are given the vaccine, and the other half are given a placebo.

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