Early Coronavirus Vaccines Likely To Target Further Complications, Not Infection, Health Experts Say

Some of the earliest novel coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccines to be approved are more likely to target prevention against developing severe symptoms from catching the virus, rather than the initial infection, multiple health experts told Bloomberg.

What Happened

Imperial College London professor Robin Shattock, who is working on developing the university's COVID-19 vaccine, told Bloomberg that the earliest vaccines are likely to come with limitations.

"It's quite possible a vaccine that only protects against severe disease would be very useful," he said.

"Vaccines need to protect against disease, not necessarily infection," Scripps Research immunologist and vaccine researcher Dennis Burton added, as reported by Bloomberg.

The Food and Drugs Administration spokesperson Michael Felberbaum also noted that the federal regulatory agency is willing to approve a vaccine, even if it works just against deadly symptoms.
"We would potentially consider an indication related to prevention of severe disease, provided available data support the benefits of vaccination," Felberbaum told Bloomberg. "For licensure we would not require that a vaccine protects against infection."

Why It Matters

Governments across the globe are looking to restart economic activities as lockdowns imposed to curb the spread of the virus become infeasible to continue, without significantly hurting the domestic economies and employment.

A vaccine that works just against developing the severe disease will reduce the risk of death for some of the most vulnerable populations, including the elderly and those with underlying diseases.

"I would have liked to have had protection against infection," the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci told Stat earlier this month.

"But then again, it depends on what you're looking for with the vaccine. That vaccine doesn't look like it's a knockout for protecting against infection, but it might be really very good at protecting against disease," Fauci said, referring to a vaccine candidate developed by AstraZeneca plc AZN in partnership with Oxford University.

Several other vaccine candidates, including those of Moderna Inc. MRNA, Inovio Pharmaceuticals Ltd. INO, and Pfizer Inc. PFE, are seeing clinical trials. Johnson & Johnson JNJ is expected to begin the clinical trial of its vaccine later this month.

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