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Tipsheet

Breakthrough? Scientists Say They've Developed a Wuhan Coronavirus Vaccine That Can Be Rapidly Deployed

AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

Right now, we’re on defense concerning fighting the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak. It’s a time for stacking sandbags and hunkering down by social distancing, washing hands constantly, and avoiding touching one’s face.

This is the way…for the time being.

Until we have some treatments that are ready to be mass deployed, such as hydroxychloroquine, which is reported to be effective, then that would be a key stopgap measure until we have a proper vaccine. As of yesterday, and the numbers are definitely higher today, the U.S. has over 230,000 Wuhan viral infections, with over 5,700 dying from it. It’s a serious disease. It’s highly contagious. And no one is immune. The young have a much greater shot at recovery if infected, but that does not mean they cannot get sick or die from the Wuhan virus. Many already have experienced the former, and tragically, some have the latter. The immunocompromised and the elderly remain, as with any viral infection, the group that is a great risk of death if they contract this disease.

This virus can live on some surfaces for up to three days, which is why staying at home is key.

So, when will we have a vaccine? Johnson & Johnson said it hopes to start testing for one in September, but a year to a year-and-a-half appears to be the timeframe. Yet, at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, scientists say they may have found one already. What’s more, is that their findings show their supposed treatment can be rolled out rapidly to reduce the spread of the virus. The delivery system is not one injection, but in a fingertip-sized patch containing 400 “microneedles” (via NY Post):

The researchers announced their findings Thursday and believe the vaccine could be rolled out quickly enough to “significantly impact the spread of disease,” according to their study published in EBioMedicine.

The vaccine would be delivered on a small, fingertip-sized patch. When tested on mice, the vaccine produced enough antibodies believed to successfully counteract the virus.

[…]

“These two viruses, which are closely related to SARS-CoV-2, teach us that a particular protein, called a spike protein, is important for inducing immunity against the virus,” read a statement from co-senior author Andrea Gambotto, M.D., associate professor of surgery at the Pitt School of Medicine.

“We knew exactly where to fight this new virus.”

[…]

Researchers said they sided with using a patch, rather than a traditional needle, to deliver the spike protein to the skin, which elicits the strongest immune reaction.

The patch contains 400 tiny “microneedles” made of sugar and protein pieces. It would be applied like a Band-Aid with the needles dissolving into the skin.

The vaccine would be “highly scalable” for widespread use, the researchers said in a news release.

Is this the gamechanger we’ve been looking for? We’ll see. As of today, over 260,000 Americans have been infected with the Wuhan coronavirus, with at least 6,600 dying from it. These numbers are bound to go up, as New York City and other urban areas have yet to truly contain the spread. 

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