Can Polio Vaccine Provide Temporary Protection Against Coronavirus?

Many scientists are currently doing everything to develop a potent coronavirus vaccine in record time before the COVID-19 situation gets worse. However, some experts are also looking into existing vaccines in hopes of finding one that could provide protection against the deadly disease.

According to NBC News, researchers in Israel, Australia and the Netherlands are investigating whether a tuberculosis vaccine could provide the needed temporary boost to the immune system and stave off COVID-19 infection. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) is strongly against the use of TB vaccine against the novel coronavirus until its efficiency in combating COVID-19 has been established.

But it’s not just the tuberculosis vaccine that is being investigated at present. Some researchers are also looking into the oral poliovirus vaccine as a possible stopgap against the coronavirus. In the U.S., University of Maryland School of Medicine–Institute of Human Virology Director Dr. Robert Gallo is one of the researchers that’s investigating the polio vaccine.

It is important to note that the polio vaccine was able to eradicate polio in the U.S. in 1979. Since 2000, the oral vaccine hasn’t been available in the country. Meanwhile, it is still being used in many countries where poliovirus is still infecting people.

Gallo and his fellow scientists recently shared their perspective on polio vaccine as temporary protection against COVID-19 in the journal Science. In their report, they indicated that they are seeking funding and approval to commence certain clinical trials to test their idea about the vaccine’s potential effect on the novel coronavirus.

The study’s co-author Dr. Konstantin Chumakov clarified that their main purpose in doing the trials is to determine whether the polio vaccine can provide a temporary solution to the current pandemic. It could buy the researchers more time in developing a potent coronavirus vaccine, one that could provide a permanent solution to the problem.

“The protection would wane with time, but the beginning of an outbreak is an important time to keep the virus from spreading,” Chumakov said, adding that the oral poliovirus vaccine has an advantage over the tuberculosis vaccine. Since the polio vaccine has three types, they can be administered back-to-back so that the temporary protection against the coronavirus can be extended to a certain period.

However, some scientists are skeptical about the proposal of Gallo’s team. For them, the existing research on this idea is still “flimsy at best.”

COVID-19 vaccine Researchers at Dalhousie University in Canada will run the clinical trials for the country's first potential COVID-19 vaccine in partnership with Chinese vaccine maker CanSino Biologics. Pixabay