Is a vaccine the only solution against covid-19?

16 September, 2020

Dr. Vicente Carreño shows us his point of view on the possible treatments and vaccines to face the coronavirus.

Around 200 research projects are currently underway to develop an effective vaccine against coronavirus. First, it will be necessary to check if the vaccine protects 100% of the population, including those over 65 years of age. It is also important to show whether it is enough to administer a single dose of vaccine or if several doses are needed (worse option since between the first and the last dose there would be days or months that the subject would continue without protection).

In addition, it is necessary to prove the tolerance to the vaccine and the possible development or not of side effects and know how to treat them in case of appearance. On the other hand, it is essential to determine if the vaccine protects against various strains of the coronavirus, since being an RNA virus it has the ability to mutate (change) and therefore, the virus escapes the immune system and infect theoretically protected people.

In this sense, several cases of reinfection have been published in various patients from different countries after an apparent cure. This suggests that the individual protection of people (similar or superior to that produced with the vaccine) could be insufficient to guarantee immunity against the coronavirus.

Other ways to beat COVID-19

So, in addition to developing vaccines, could something else be scientifically done to fight Covid-19? Yes much more. What happened with hepatitis C is an excellent example. Against this disease, new antiviral drugs have been developed that cure 95% or more of infected people. Thus, although there is no vaccine against the hepatitis C virus, the number of patients with this disease has drastically decreased worldwide.

Characteristics of coronavirus and hepatitis C virus infections

It is true that the coronavirus and the hepatitis C virus have different infectious and pathogenic characteristic, but we should learn from the experience acquired in the treatment of viral infections.  So, in addition to the development of effective vaccines against the coronavirus, I believe that a significant scientific and economic effort should be devoted to the development of effective antiviral drugs against the coronavirus. As far as I know, there are no publications in this regard except for Remdesivir (with very limited benefits) and dexamethasone (which is not an antiviral).

For all this, from my experience in researching treatments for hepatitis B and C viruses, I consider that, in addition to vaccines, the development of antiviral drugs against coronavirus capable of eliminating the infection in at least 95% of patients is essential. This would save many lives by avoiding the initial phase of multiplication of the coronavirus and avoiding the later phase of the inflammatory process with fatal consequences for survival.

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