Virologist Dr Chris Smith explains the science behind how the coronavirus vaccine will work
Virologist Dr Chris Smith has explained the science behind how the coronavirus vaccine will work.
Speaking to Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid following the announcement that a Covid-19 vaccine has proven 90% effective in immunising against the virus, based on results from final "stage three" human trials, Dr Smith described what the vaccine does to the virus.
"In this case what they’ve done is to take the genetic code from the virus itself - the codes for the outer coat of the virus, a part of the virus called the spike or the S protein - and this is the bit that it uses to latch on to and grab hold of our cells. They’ve put that into an oily coat and these oily coated droplets - they’re absolutely tiny - you inject into the body, cells in the body then pick up those packets, they unwrap them, remove the genetic code that is in there and read it," Dr Smith said.
"They make the part of the virus encoded by that genetic code, show it to the immune system and then the immune system learns what the virus would look like in a cell were it in the body for real so that you make both antibodies and also crucially white blood cells called T-cells that can form a mature, effective immune response were you to then encounter that threat for real," he added.
During the show, Regius Professor of Medicine at Oxford University Professor Sir John Bell also shared his thoughts on the latest Covid vaccine "breakthrough".
"This is a pretty substantial step. Not only have they got a vaccine that works, it’s working at a much higher level than most of us thought a vaccine would work at. This was the breakthrough we needed to really make a difference," Professor Bell told Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid on Good Morning Britain.
Asked about his confidence that we’ll be back to normal by spring and what that will look like, Professor Sir John Bell said: “First thing that’s going to happen is this has to be approved by regulators both by the US and here. That, based on the data I’ve seen, should be pretty straight forward."
"That will be ready for regulators to look at next week as I understand it. The regulators should turn it around pretty quickly – I would have thought it would take a week at most to give it the nod."
He continued: “Then it’s really a question of getting the vaccine that’s been produced already and get it out so people can start being vaccinated. This vaccine has an issue, that is it has to be transported at a very low temp -80 degrees… that it seems to me is one of the significant issues we’re going to have to overcome. But compared to inventing a vaccine, that’s not such a complicated problem.
“I should also say that because this vaccine has been successful, it’s extremely likely the other vaccines that showed the same kind of ability to mount immune responses will also be successful. There’s at least two of those that we’ll be able to have a look at some time over the next few weeks – one is the Moderna vaccine, the other is the AstraZeneca vaccine. If they play as well then we’ll have two or three vaccines.”
After Professor Sir John Bell described the vaccine as fooling cells into producing a viral protein which the immune system reacts to, Piers Morgan said the vaccine was a “James Bond of vaccines - it’s duplicitous, sneaky, incredibly ruthless and annihilates the enemy just when it thinks it’s got Bond where it wants him.”
Bell responded: “That’s exactly the right description actually. And the other good news is it’s very fast. You can make these things very quickly. All you need is a string of RNA. You can make that in no time at all. It holds real promise for future pandemics as well."