As the world moves closer to the end of the year, many people are expecting a coronavirus vaccine to be rolled out relatively soon, but what if a certain group of people can't get the vaccine, or if it won't work on them?
Prof Peter Openshaw, from Imperial, who is one the members of the scientific advisory group Nervtag spoke to the House of Lords Science and technology committee that the coronavirus vaccine might not work on older people who are most at-risk of becoming severely ill from COVID-19. The solution to this issue is to immunize people around older people. An example of this is giving the nasal spray flu vaccine to children who usually don't get a bad case of the flu results in protection for their grandparents.
The main issue with administering the vaccine to older people is what goes wrong with an older person's immune system once they begin to age. Arne Akbar, professor of immunology at UCL and President of the British Society of Immunology, said, "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. And this baseline inflammation in older people is linked to frailty and many negative outcomes as we get older."
He continued, "And this seems to be exacerbated when you get a severe infection like Covid-19. But what is the source of the inflammation in the first place? That's something that we really need to get to grips with."
Akbar explains that another solution to this problem is administering the coronavirus vaccine to older people with an anti-inflammatory drug such as dexamethasone. Together, this combination of vaccine and the anti-inflammatory drug could generate a response that benefits elders.
"So for older people, you might have something like an anti-inflammatory drug, like maybe dexamethasone, together with vaccine responses to give you the maximum benefit. Just the vaccine alone will help the younger people and that will be good, because then if the younger people are not infected they won't spread it to the older people. But it won't directly help the older group very much, and they're the people that are having the most severe disease right now."
If you are interested in reading more about this, check out the article from The Guardian here.
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