We Need a Reality Check on the Coronavirus Vaccine
The robustness and duration of immunity to Covid-19 is unknown, and vaccines are really hard to create
Anyone expecting a Covid-19 vaccine will eradicate coronavirus from our lives anytime soon or that our collective immunity will thwart the spread should, for now, keep up those physical-distancing efforts until science suggests otherwise.
Antibody tests to determine whether a person who has been infected with the coronavirus has some level of immunity and might, therefore, be able to return to work should be available in “a week or so,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID), said April 10 on CNN.
But how much immunity people will have, and how long it might last, remains unknown. Meanwhile, a vaccine could still take many months to develop and distribute, experts say, and there is no guarantee that one is possible.
“Because this coronavirus is highly infectious and causes serious symptoms, that tends to really crank up the body’s immune response to it, and so that means it’s less likely to re-infect somebody.”
“There are a lot of very smart people working very hard to come up with a vaccine” and develop the infrastructure to mass-produce it quickly, says Yonatan Grad, MD, an assistant professor of immunology and infectious diseases at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. It’s “likely” one will be developed, he says. “But it’s not a given.”
After decades of effort, there’s still no vaccine for HIV, Grad points out. And while vaccines have been developed for many other virus types from mumps to the flu, nobody’s figured one out for the common cold, which vexes researchers in part because it can be caused by multiple coronaviruses and some 160 different rhinoviruses.
The unpredictable curveball of immunity
When recovering from a viral infection, people typically develop some level of immunity, protecting them from reinfection. The body reacts to a virus by creating antibodies…