Yesterday I talked about the number one topic patients ask me about in the era of coronavirus: testing. So today, I want to talk about the second most common question I get asked: What about a vaccine?
Again, I can’t fault the question. The prospect of a vaccine is just another thing our government has us pinning our hopes on in order to get us more comfortable with mingling and spending money again.
Although, I could think of a few better ways, personally. (Like turning off the non-stop, 24/7 news cycle even for just one day, avoiding or ignoring any and all social media, and not giving in to fear and panic when we need more love, compassion, and unity.)
But since vaccines are a reasonable part of any conversation involving this pandemic, let’s talk a little bit more about where we are—and what we can realistically expect in the future.
A little too good to be true
First, let’s get one thing straight: Even if you believe the claim that a COVID-19 vaccine will be ready by this fall, or even by January, I’m here to tell you that you’d be wise to exercise a healthy amount of skepticism.
Still, people are hopeful and excited… and it’s no wonder why. The government gave AstraZeneca 1.2 billion dollars to guarantee 300 million doses of a vaccine by October 2020. That is a staggering amount of money—and frankly, I’d like to know who authorized it.
Another biotech company called Moderna has its own vaccine candidate in the works, claiming it could have a finished product ready to roll by January 2021, as their first human trials produced positive results in eight people.
(I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: Eight people?! This doesn’t particularly excite me.)
Let’s get back to AstraZeneca. Because the idea was to pay them up front so that manufacturing can start as soon as possible. That is, before we know for sure whether their vaccine is safe or effective, which is pretty much the reverse of how the clinical trial process usually works.
And considering these are just two candidates of ten different vaccine trials in the works right now, by the end of this year, we may have many vaccines made and stored in a refrigerator somewhere.
But between now and December, there’s absolutely no way you can show that any of these vaccines work—let alone, that they’re safe. Achieving this feat would require condensing what is in many cases a decade’s worth of development into mere months—a situation with no margin for error to speak of.
That’s not to say it absolutely can’t be done. Granted, there is a ton of money to be made here, and that usually motivates industry.
But in the end, we are talking about human life. And while COVID-19’s toll has been deadly, it’s not exactly thrilling to be a guinea pig for an untested vaccine, either.
Good health is your best defense
Just so you know, it typically takes multiple candidates and several years to produce a licensed vaccine.
Four years is the fastest any vaccine has ever been developed to date. (That was the mumps vaccine, which was licensed in 1967. And in my opinion, we’ve been dealing with the ramifications of that vaccine for decades.)
And another obstacle, according to Big Pharma—whether you want to believe them or not—would be simply getting the number of vials necessary to distribute billions of doses. (Though if you ask me, this is putting the cart before the horse again—who says billions of people are going to want, or even need, the vaccine?)
Not only that, but in order to demonstrate true efficacy, you need to have a sufficiently large trial, which would take some 18 months alone. In it, we’d give vaccines to healthy volunteers. Because if there are going to be safety concerns, they might not crop up until the vaccine is tested on tens of thousands of people.
In the end, the risks of rushing a coronavirus vaccine should be crystal clear. But allow me to give you a few examples from history, anyway:
- Back in 1955, an early batch of the polio vaccine caused paralysis in some children and ten deaths.
- Early candidates for the other coronavirus, SARS-CoV-1, triggered a lung reaction in patients that was so dangerous that vaccine development was stopped.
- We know that a vaccine for dengue fever actually worsens the disease in some recipients, due to a reaction called “antibody-dependent enhancement.”
Needless to say, even if a vaccine for COVID-19 does become quickly available, we’re looking at a potentially huge battle. Because as of today—with more than 100,000 deaths from the virus—polls show that nearly half of Americans will refuse the vaccine, anyway.
And to be honest? Given all the concerns mentioned above, I’d throw my own hat into that ring, too.
Americans can keep dreaming about an easy way out of this. But to me, the writing is on the wall. And the only way out is through taking care of yourself—now, and always. So, eat right, sleep right, exercise, make time for relaxation and meditation, and take your supplements… every day.
That will strengthen your body and fortify your immune system. And as it stands, that’s our best defense. But if you’re looking for more, check out my Complete Guide to Year-Round Immunity. In it, I outline all of my top immune health recommendations you can adopt now, in the age of coronavirus, and always.
“Scientific Doubt Tempers COVID-19 Vaccine Optimism.” Medscape Medical News, 05/28/2020. (medscape.com/viewarticle/931330)