Literatus: Hope for 2 Covid-19 vaccines

Zosimo T. Literatus

AT LAST, China has released to the public the genome sequence of the SARS-CoV-2. Consequently, a team of scientists at the University of Texas at Austin and the NIAID Vaccine Research Center has isolated a genomic segment that encodes the spike protein responsible for penetrating human cells, causing the SARS-CoV-2 genes to be copied and produce more viruses inside the human body.

Evidently, SARS-CoV-2 has surficial spikes that are 10 to 20 times more powerful than the 2002 SARS virus in binding to the human cell surface receptors, which are enzymes called the “angiotensin-converting enzyme 2.” This explains the rapidity of the Covid-19 spread from person to person.

The scientists, led by Dr. Jason McLellan, found out that three antibodies against the 2002 SARS could not bind to the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, making the old SARS vaccine ineffective against Covid-19. The report came out in the Feb. 19 issue of “Science.” Thus, a unique vaccine must be designed from scratch and produced.

The faster way to design this vaccine is to isolate the antibodies from Covid-19 survivors. Theirs are the antibodies that worked against SARS-CoV-2.

Currently, the scientists are working on two parallel vaccines. First, the vaccine that targets the binding resistant components of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. Second, the vaccine that came from antibodies isolated from surviving Covid-19 infection. I believe that the second vaccine can be faster to develop if the scientists can isolate the patients’ antibodies and reproduce them in the laboratory.

Thus, the hope for future vaccination is getting better every day. We hope that the pharmaceutical companies involved in the effort can design fast the delivery system for these antibodies into a workable and safe vaccine.

That is good news for the near future. We only hope that the vaccines are affordable. Far better, we hope that the government can purchase these vaccines and give them to Filipinos for free.