Advanced search

How is vaccine possible if immunity not conferred?

(58 Posts)
LurkingElle Sat 18-Apr-20 08:34:19

The WHO is saying that virus antibody tests are dangerous because having antibodies does not necessarily mean that you’re immune, and that if you ARE immune it will probably be for only a limited time, probably one year max.
So how would a vaccine work?
And have scientists not tried and failed to develop vaccines for other coronaviruses?

OP’s posts: |
kingis Sat 18-Apr-20 08:38:04

I guess you will need new jab every year.

Lindy2 Sat 18-Apr-20 08:41:40

I don't know either. How do we get out of this if we can keep catching it?

Would a vaccine become a bit like the annual flu jab where it is changed each year to try and keep up with the virus? Perhaps just given annually to the vulnerable and those that have been very ill with it before.

ProfessorPootle Sat 18-Apr-20 08:42:08

I imagine it will be similar to a flu vaccine with yearly boosters for specific strains predicted to be prevalent. Coronaviruses include the flu and common cold both of which mutate rapidly. This is a virus that is going to be with us for the foreseeable future.

Whathappenedtothelego Sat 18-Apr-20 08:46:25

There is a vaccine for flu each year, so it might be like that.

And I think one problem of developing vaccines is the ethics of testing them on humans. But if you are in the middle of a pandemic, you can give a lot of people your vaccine assuming they will catch the illness, rather than struggling with the ethics of infecting people deliberately. So the situation actually allows you to make progress and test your vaccine more quickly.

LurkingElle Sat 18-Apr-20 08:49:13

Pootle, flu is influenza not coronavirus?
There is currently doubt over whether having antibodies confers immunity for even three months. Or at all, might just mean you have it more mildly the next time, still no good for very vulnerable people. And there have been suggestions that having been vaccinated could mean you’re MORE susceptible to developing severe symptoms?

OP’s posts: |
Bool Sat 18-Apr-20 08:53:49

It is not even a problem of mutation and having to have a different jab every year. It is a problem of a vaccine being able to develop sufficient antibodies to confer immunity in the first place. Am losing faith in the WHO though honestly as they simply don’t know.

Tiredoutteacher2020 Sat 18-Apr-20 08:55:38

Lurking - I wouldn't worry about it for now. There isn't even a vaccine yet. The scientists will get there eventually and then you'll have your answers.

BlueGheko Sat 18-Apr-20 08:57:40

I agree it will be an annual vaccine like kennel cough in dogs which is a coronavirus.

Walkaround Sat 18-Apr-20 09:00:02

They are also testing various anti-virals to see if they can lessen the severity of the symptoms.

Greendayz Sat 18-Apr-20 09:08:58

I think the antibodies very likely do give you protection - WHO are not saying that they don't. They are just pointing out that we don't yet have proof that they do - because we haven't yet developed a good antibody test, and hence haven't had a chance to see whether people testing positive go on to catch it again or not.

This is the key thing that the vaccine trials will investigate - whether people who have had the vaccine don't catch Covid19. Only if they work will they will then roll it out.

Sunshinegirl82 Sat 18-Apr-20 09:09:30

The honest answer to all of this will be that we don’t have any definitive answers yet. That said I am quite hopeful that a vaccine will be developed.

SARS and MERS did have vaccines in development but as the outbreaks were fairly self limiting they weren’t really needed so the work wasn’t completed. I wouldn’t take that to mean that no vaccine is possible in this case.

Personally I find it very difficult to believe that this virus is so fundamentally different from any other virus we have ever encountered that the human body can fight it off and then still remain completely susceptible to being infected. It seems far more likely that some short term immunity at least will be achieved.

This Coronavirus appears to mutate more slowly than flu and if they do mutate the vaccine will have to be altered annually to address that.

Every scientist in the world is working on this and has unlimited resources at their disposal. I think we can be hopeful that both a vaccine and drug treatments will be forthcoming.

I’m not aware of any specific comments made by the WHO on immunity but they have made it clear that they consider that attempting to achieve herd immunity via population infection to be a bad plan so perhaps comments of that nature are an attempt to make it clear that countries should not take that route?

Sunshinegirl82 Sat 18-Apr-20 09:15:57

I also think that the WHO’s comments on the antibody tests are a warning not to rush everyone with apparent immunity according to the test back to “normal” as there is still too much that is unknown.

The difficulty with all of this is that the experts will not always agree!

LurkingElle Sat 18-Apr-20 09:17:46

BBC news reports that someone called Dr Maria van Kerkhove from the WHO has stated that somebody with antibodies is not necessarily protected from reinfection.

OP’s posts: |
iVampire Sat 18-Apr-20 09:21:30

Countries have no choice but to follow the herd immunity route. Because that’s what Mother Nature imposes on us. It has to be by the wild disease, though we can control spread by lockdown type measures, so health services can cope; unless/until there is a vaccine.

WHO is collating all research data from round the globe. It’s not their fault that the answers don’t exist yet. More testing, with a reliable antibody test, and across representative populations (and possibly repeat testing) will give information on immunity and how enduring it is.

Some diseases need boosters (eg the bacterial ones for diphtheria and tetanus, or the continuing repeats for cholera) so perhaps this one might as well.

Grobagsforever Sat 18-Apr-20 09:21:44


It's not advisable to use the BBC as a reliable source for scientific reporting.

Yummyoldbag Sat 18-Apr-20 09:22:47

Even more of a concern is the possibility that the way younger people fight this means they may not have much in the way of antibodies. Herd immunity via Covid or the vaccine might prove tricky.

Lots of unknowns, Science will develop some theories, some that might give reasonable answers. We are not there yet.

Tattiebee Sat 18-Apr-20 09:22:53

There isn't evidence to say either way yet.

Grobagsforever Sat 18-Apr-20 09:23:55


Exactly. It's seems vanishingly unlikely that this will be the first ever virus to which no immune response is created after recovery. There is no other virus that matches that profile. But the boosters hypothesis is more reasonable, because not all immunity is permanent.

CountFosco Sat 18-Apr-20 09:27:41

We aren't just looking at vaccines though. There are anti-virals already licensed for other viral infections (HIV, Ebola, flu etc) that are being tested for their efficacy against Covid-19. Every anti-viral in clinical trials is also being tested against Covid-19. Finding treatments will take less time than getting a vaccine. It may be that like HIV we get effective treatments but struggle to get a vaccine (hopefully not, because HIV attacks the immune system developing a vaccine was particularly challenging).

Aposterhasnoname Sat 18-Apr-20 09:29:48

No evidence that there is immunity is not the same as there is no immunity. They don’t want people thinking “oh I had a cough last week, I’m immune now”. The scientists know what they are doing, the rest of us do not. The best scientific and medical brains in the world are all over this. They’ll sort it, we just need to be patient, let them do their stuff and stop demanding answers before they have them..

PuzzledObserver Sat 18-Apr-20 09:44:32

Even if a vaccine is only partly effective, e.g. reduces risk of catching it rather than guarantees it, it would still be extremely valuable if widely administered. The fewer people who are susceptible to the virus, the less chance it has to spread and the less chance it has to infect people who would become severely ill from it.

bathsh3ba Sat 18-Apr-20 09:49:01

They are saying there is not evidence yet. Earlier in the year they also said there was no evidence of human to human transmission. Evidence has since emerged. Saying there is no evidence something works is not the same as saying there is evidence something doesn't work.

Egghead68 Sat 18-Apr-20 09:54:21

It's seems vanishingly unlikely that this will be the first ever virus to which no immune response is created after recovery.

I have no specialist knowledge but is this true? I don’t think we develop immunity to e.g. norovirus do we?

LurkingElle Sat 18-Apr-20 09:56:53

And we don’t seem to develop any immunity to the common cold, eg the RSV virus, do we?

OP’s posts: |

Join the discussion

Registering is free, quick, and means you can join in the discussion, watch threads, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Get started »