Dr. Jameel began by sharing a very pertinent video, called ‘COVID-19 Immunology 101 for Non-immunologists’ by Dr. Akiko Iwasaki. He then delved into the numbers of the pandemic as they stand today, globally and then focusing on Indian states. He also highlighted the different progression with examples of urban hubs- Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, etc.
Getting into the structure of the SARS-CoV-2, he explained some of the features, and how this impacts transmission, infection, and potential vaccines targeting the unique spike protein. The coronaviruses carry a proof-reading capacity, and do not mutate as rapidly as others such as the influenza virus. He also provided an overview of a few studies of the immune response, such as the paper in Science which came out last week and identified three distinct “immunotypes” in response to the COVID-19 infection. These could have implications for treatments and vaccines.
Dr Jameel provided an introduction to the kinds of vaccines which are being worked on for the SARS-CoV-2. The rapid development of a massive number of vaccines at the time is an inspiring sign of dedication to research and collaboration. The status of various vaccines was highlighted, such as the University of Oxford-AstraZeneca one, CanSinoBio from China, and several Indian efforts (Serum Institute of India, Zydus Cadilla, and ICMR-Bharat Biotech). Dr. Jameel referred to the likelihood that large-scale manufacturing of these vaccines if they become viable, at the earliest, would be at the end of this year. These would likely go to prioritised individuals, those on the medical frontlines, elderly populations, those with comorbidities, etc.
Dr. Jameel emphasised what many experts are saying, that herd immunity is not a short-term solution. This will be achieved over the long-term, either through the community or by vaccination, but currently, having enough people infected by the virus for herd immunity is not feasible, and will result in high death rates in a population. He also expressed his view against human challenge trials for COVID-19, considering the lack of a clear and effective treatment path, comparing it to a known and treatable disease like malaria.
Dr. Jameel ended with strong messages to practise personal safety measures, for ourselves and those around us; we cannot wait for vaccines. More viruses will affect us with global warming, deforestation, etc. and it is important to advocate for science among policy-makers, and also revise our lifestyles, such as travel for conferences, business, etc.