Based on several reports earlier this week, medical researchers might have finally recorded a thrilling breakthrough. Moreover, it appears to be twofold as it involves treatment for COVID-19 patients and a vaccine for SARS-CoV-2. However, a leading scientist who has extensive experience working with HIV/AIDS studies warns against complacency. While the aforementioned discoveries are indeed noteworthy, he remains sceptical as to how soon it can be approved for use. Therefore, the healthcare sector should account for possible delays due to more testing.

Fox News reports that William Haseltine, a former Harvard Medical School professor, was able to point out concerns regarding ongoing clinical trials. He noted that in the past, vaccines developed specifically to combat coronavirus all shared a common problem. While it was capable of reducing the viral load in controlled scenarios, the infections persisted. This was apparently attributed to the vaccine's inability to shield the mucous membranes of an individual's nose.

Coronaviruses such as SARS-CoV-2 have been shown to spread via respiratory droplets from infected patients. These are then inhaled by those in close proximity, which then renders them either symptomatic or asymptomatic in some cases after a certain period of time (usually within 14 days). Thus, he believes that it is still too early to call preliminary findings a success until it has run the full course of extensive testing.

Moderna Inc., a biotech company based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, announced that its coronavirus vaccine showed positive results in low to medium doses. In a group of 45 volunteers, eight were observed to have developed antibodies that should prevent infection. Thus, they are awaiting approval from regulators to proceed to the next phase of their trials. The U.S. National Institute of Health (NIH) has signed up to help moving forward.

COVID-19 vaccine research
More than 100 vaccines for COVID-19 are in the works globally Photo: AFP / WANG ZHAO

Meanwhile, Haseltine described the recent publicity surrounding the purported vaccine as "the equivalent of a chief executive of a public company announcing a favourable earnings report without supplying supporting financial data." Instead, he urges people to follow the directives set by public health officials in order to reduce the rate of viral transmissions. These include wearing of masks, social distancing, and self-isolation.