I am not sure what normal looks like anymore, but I hear a lot of people say “when things go back to normal” or “I want things to go back to normal.” Well, me too. I am dreaming of a day, post-COVID, when I can freely travel, visit my family, meet and snuggle my new nephew, and hug my parents. I want to celebrate birthdays, memorials, retirements and weddings, in a time when people can see my face sans mask, and without concern of transmitting a potentially deadly virus to my loved ones.
My hope for this is hinging on a safe and effective vaccine for SARS-CoV-2. We are not exactly sure when this will be available, but we do know that there are three different vaccines that are going into phase 3 (30,000 people) trials and, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), may be ready to be distributed to select populations before the end of 2020.
These are unique vaccines in that they are using messenger RNA (mRNA), genetic material from the virus, but not the virus itself. The mRNA would be what is in the vaccine, rather than the conventional vaccines that contain either an inactivated organism, or a protein made by the organism (antigens), to stimulate the body’s immune response. The mRNA genetic information is coded inside the body to make an antigen to be recognized by the body’s immune cells. Then the immune system keeps a file on hand so that when it sees that antigen again, in the form of the actual live virus, it already has the machinery to wipe it out before causing symptoms, or being replicated and able to infect others.
I am anxiously following these developments so that when a safe and effective vaccine is available to this physician in rural Idaho, I can do what I can to make my life more “normal.”