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COVID-19 vaccines

Updated: Sep 23, 2020

After HIV was discovered as the cause of AIDS, HHS Secretary Margaret Heckler was quoted as suggesting that a vaccine would be developed within two years. That was 1984. More than 35 years later, despite enormous effort, there is still no effective HIV vaccine. (Now there are very effective HIV drugs, however.)

Vaccines aren't created by magic or boasting. They require science, well designed and executed trials, and patience. As a group, viruses employ a variety of tricks, some viruses such as HIV being much harder than others to outwit.

Even if a safe, effective, FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccine appeared tomorrow, it would take many months for it to affect the pandemic because of challenges in manufacture, distribution, --and trust. As long as some people refuse to social distance and refuse to wear a mask, the virus will continue to spread out of control, likely killing ANOTHER 200,000 people just by the end of this year. Premature reopening of schools and businesses, not to mention holding crowded maskless rallies, guarantees more infections and more deaths as some leaders try to manage by calendar instead of by data.

At this time, despite enormous ongoing effort and political hype, defeat of the pandemic by vaccines is little more than a fantasy. But as Emory's Dr. Carlos Del Rio recently exclaimed, "We have a vaccine already--it's called a mask!"

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Ed Ewing
Ed Ewing
Sep 24, 2020

The first U.S. licensed flu vaccine did not appear until the 1940s. To my knowledge, a vaccine specific for the 1918 flu virus has never been developed, but in recent years that virus has been reconstructed and studied in the laboratory. Current antivirals and flu vaccines have been shown to protect mice against experimental infection with the 1918 flu virus, and so would be expected to provide some protection to humans if that or a very similar virus were ever to reappear in nature.

The 1918 pandemic ended only after reaching every part of the globe, infecting an estimated 500 million people out of a world population of 1.8 billion (world population today is 7.8 billion) and killing as many…


It only takes a straightforward comparison of the US' death toll with that of Asian countries to understand the scale of the Trump administration's failure. The US now has about 62 deaths per million people. Meanwhile, according to Johns Hopkins University data, Hong Kong, Japan, and Taiwan all have less than 1 death per million; and China, South Korea and Singapore have each under 5 deaths per million.



Ed - was there ever a vaccine developed for the 1918 flu? How did that pandemic ever come to an end?

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