By now it’s safe to say that everyone is about ready for this virus to go away. COVID-19 has kept quite possibly every individual on Earth from living a normal life for about half a year now. Staying home, wearing masks everywhere, not being able to gather in large groups, and having to be conscious of just about every subtle move they make are all factors that would soon go away given the discovery of an effective vaccine. So, the question is, what is the big wait all about. It’s 2020 and our technologic capabilities have grown exponentially in the recent past, I mean we have the internet at our fingers in a moments notice, so we have to be able to whip up a vaccine for this world renowned bug, right? Well, vaccines, for a multitude of reasons, are not nearly that simple, and it actually oftentimes takes about ten years to effectively create a vaccine. To start, the process costs about $500 million dollars start to finish. Though money likely wouldn’t be a factor in the midst of a pandemic, this is a good representation of the complexity of the process of creation. At the molecular level, it needs to be understood what this virus looks like, the proteins it contains, and how to allow the body to create antibodies to resist the very specific contaminants of this virus. Given that a virus is much, much smaller than any type of bacteria, the difficulty of the process can be understood. Following a possible development, the vaccines must be tested and proven effective, which is quite possibly the most difficult part. But it isn’t necessarily the science that makes for issues, but rather the ethical issues regarding how to prove its effectiveness.
There are current vaccinations for COVID in existence, however, they have obviously not been released to the public yet as the effectiveness has not yet been determined. It usually requires plenty of testing on animals before moving to people, but there have been some ideas about speeding up the process. They are called “human challenge” trials, where individuals try to become infected with the virus, allowing for a further understanding of the virus and effectiveness of the vaccine. It began as more of an idea, but now there are over 30,000 individuals who have offered to partake in these trials. Though this idea may sounds intriguing, and very well could help the greater good, is it an ethical way to perform science? Intentionally infecting individuals with a virus that has the potential to kill them, and testing vaccines that are not yet proven to work, doesn’t seem like any type of assured process. The severity of COVID-19 has created a desparate time, but is it acceptable, or even worth it, to perform the human challenge trials? This is something of great debate, and a result I most definitely await.