A Maryland man believes he could be one of the first people to be successfully vaccinated against coronavirus after his body produced antibodies in response to a trial.
David Rach praised the “promising” results of a trial at the University of Maryland in Baltimore, where American drug giant Pfizer and German company BioNTech are preparing to mass-produce the vaccine if it proves to be effective.
Rach, a college immunology graduate, said his body produced more antibodies than the levels seen in recovering virus patients after he was the first person injected into the study.
However, it will take months before the results can be fully assessed, as scientists need to know how long the antibodies will last and whether Rach will be immune to the virus if he encounters it in the meantime.
Scientists around the world are racing to develop a vaccine, which is seen as the only sure way to bring the pandemic to a halt and return to normal if it is reliable and wide enough.
David Rach – pictured on a test vaccine injection at the University of Maryland – says he could be one of the first people to be successfully vaccinated against Covid-19
Health experts are still unsure of how much immunity is naturally obtained from a battle with the disease, meaning that hopes of achieving immunity to herds are fraught with uncertainty.
After receiving two doses of a trial vaccine, Rach said that “the early data results are indeed positive,” but warned that there is still “a long way to go.”
Rach does not believe he has had the virus and points out that it is useless to test a patient who may have already developed antibodies.
He is also not sure whether he received the test vaccine or a placebo saline, but believes that after the test, his body generated ‘Sars-COV-2 Spike Protein RBD-specific antibodies’.
“It is very promising. Despite being in the low dose group, I generated higher Sars-COV-2 Spike Protein RBD-specific antibodies than the levels seen in the samples from the recovering COVID patients, “he said.
But he added, “Does this mean I go around and start licking doorknobs? Absolutely not.’
Rach will be back in the clinic in October to have his antibody levels checked, or sooner if he thinks he’s been exposed to the virus before.
“I take my temperature every morning and report all COVID-related symptoms I might have,” he explained.
David Rach, a graduate immunology student from university, said his body was making more antibodies than the levels seen in recovering virus patients
He said that everyone involved in the study continues to practice masks and social distances because the vaccine’s effectiveness remains uncertain.
He added, “While generating higher antibody levels is encouraging, new viruses still determine what immune protection [being] infected with the virus consists of.
Even if the vaccine turns out to be protective against COVID-19, if the immune response it generates is short-lived, instead of bam, you’ve been vaccinated, you’re now good for life [like with a Yellow Fever vaccine], you should get the vaccine more regularly to protect the individual. ‘
The Maryland Project is one of many projects around the world hoping to achieve the decisive breakthrough against the pandemic.
Dozens of vaccine candidates are at various stages of development around the world to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.
A major trial is taking place at Oxford University in the UK, where the first human patients were injected with a trial vaccine in April.
Other tests take place in China and India, among others. The head of India’s top clinical research agency recently claimed it could have a vaccine by August.
There is also concern about how quickly a vaccine can be mass-produced and distributed once it gets the green light.
Health experts would face global travel restrictions, while billions of doses may require new types of vials and syringes to be invented.
Some developers are experimenting with new ways to reduce the extreme cold storage requirements of their vaccines, which currently need to be kept at -80C.
“This is the biggest logistics challenge the world has ever faced,” said Toby Peters, an engineer and technology expert at the University of Birmingham, UK.
“We could look at vaccinating 60 percent of the population,” that is, hundreds of millions of people in some countries.