"Earlier this week, England’s deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam said the words nobody wants to hear: “We can’t be sure we will get a vaccine.”
A chief concern is that coronaviruses do not tend to trigger long-lasting immunity. About a quarter of common colds are caused by human coronaviruses, but the immune response fades so rapidly that people can become reinfected the next year.
“That’s what is particularly challenging,” says Stanley Perlman, a veteran coronavirus researcher at the University of Iowa. “If the natural infection doesn’t give you that much immunity except when it’s a severe infection, what will a vaccine do? It could be better, but we don’t know.” If a vaccine only protects for a year, the virus will be with us for some time.
Unlike experimental drugs for the severely ill, the vaccine will be given to potentially billions of generally healthy people.This means scientists will have to check extremely carefully for signs of dangerous side-effects.
“Unless we have a vaccine available in unbelievable quantities that could be administered extraordinarily quickly in all communities in the world we will have gaps in our defences that the virus can continue to circulate in.”
Or as Brilliant puts it, the virus will “ping-pong back and forth in time and geography”. (Me: Remember that Trump has failed to engage in the international effort)
“If the process of getting a vaccine, testing it, proving it, manufacturing it, planning for its delivery, and building a vaccine programme all over the world, if that’s going to take as long as we think, then let’s fucking start planning it now.”