Shomporko Desk: -A vaccine against COVID-19 may not be as compelling in older people who are most in danger of experiencing difficulties and dying from the disease, as indicated by U.K. scientists.
However, some experts state immunizing those around the old may help secure them.
Speaking at the House of Lords Science and technology committee in London, U.K., researchers said focusing on various groups in the population with vaccines ought to be nearer concentrated as the world races to build up an immunization for the novel coronavirus.
“Sometimes it is possible to protect a vulnerable group by targeting another group and this, for example, is being done with influenza. In the past few years, the U.K. has been at the forefront of rolling out the live attenuated vaccine for children,” Prof. Peter Openshaw from Imperial College London said at the committee hearing earlier this week.
Openshaw said administering the seasonal nasal spray flu vaccine to children who do not often get severe influenza helps protect their grandparents, for example.
The same could be said for COVID-19 vaccine, he added.
Dr. Eleanor Fish, an immunology professor at the University of Toronto, told that a coronavirus vaccine may not work on the elderly because their immune systems are “not as robust” as those of younger people.
When considering the seasonal flu shot, Fish said the elderly are typically given a larger dose of the flu vaccine so their immune systems have a better chance of recognizing and responding to the vaccine.
However, she warns that there are still a lot of unknowns in regards to a COVID-19 vaccine.
“We don’t know that if any of the vaccines being developed are going to be effective. We don’t know whether… the key antibodies and the neutralizing antibodies are going to be effective against the virus,” Fish said
“But if we assume that there is going to be an effective vaccine [for] healthy adults and presume that healthy adults take the vaccine, there is still the potential that the vaccine my not prompt a response in the elderly.”
Arne Akbar, professor of immunology at University College London and president of the British Society of Immunology, said at the hearing that a better understanding of an ageing immune system is not just important for COVID-19, but for other diseases as well.
“One thing that’s apparent, even in healthy older people, is that there’s more inflammation all around the body. We need to understand where that inflammation is coming from,” Akbar said. “And this baseline inflammation in older people is linked to frailty and many negative outcomes as we get older. And this seems to be exacerbated when you get a severe infection like COVID-19.”
It is unclear who will be the first to get the vaccines, but the ones most at risk of getting infected would likely be inoculated first, according to Kerry Bowman, a clinical ethicist at the University of Toronto.
Bowman said Wednesday that health-care workers, other first responders, and the elderly could be among the first.
However, given that older people’s immune systems are weaker, Bowman said it may be more effective to vaccinate everyone who may come into contact with the elderly.
When Canada gets a vaccine, Bowman said the demand will be high and there will be ethical questions about who will get it first.
“If we get a vaccine, it’ll be helpful but it may not be helpful for some of the most vulnerable people,” Bowman said.
It is not yet known what level of immune response will be required to protect humans against COVID-19, but Fish said developing vaccines to fight the virus is still important.
“Imagine if we have one or two vaccines in the next 6 months? That will change the face of COVID-19 regardless of who takes it,” Fish said.
Photo credit: AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit
News source: CTVNews