Can the Yellow Fever Vaccine Protect Against COVID-19?
GENETICALLY altering the yellow fever vaccine has shown to be protective against coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in animal models after a single shot; this is according to researchers from the Rega Institute, Leuven, Belgium. After providing immunity to COVID-19 in hamsters, mice, and monkeys, the next steps for the vaccine will be clinical trials in humans.
Provisionally called RegaVax, the vaccine was created using the standard yellow fever virus and then inserting a genetic sequence from the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2), the virus that causes COVID-19. Following a single dose of this vaccine in hamsters, the researchers then infected the animals with SARS-CoV-2; 3 weeks later, all animals were immune to the coronavirus.
By only requiring a single shot for full immunity, Prof Johan Neyts, one of the lead virologists of the study, said: “This has important logistical implications, in particular for countries with a less advanced medical system. It could therefore be an ideal candidate for repeat vaccinations when immunity decreases in people who have received one of the first-generation vaccines.”
Over 500 million people worldwide have already been vaccinated with the original yellow fever, which has been in use for 80 years and has a good safety record. However, it is unsuitable for people aged over 60 years and individuals with reduced immunity.
Despite this, the researchers are remaining optimistic and believe their new vaccine candidate to be safer than the original, as evidenced by their murine studies. Prof Neyts is also hopeful that: “A vaccine that works against COVID-19 and yellow fever could offer an important contribution to the [World Health Organization] WHO’s campaign to eradicate yellow fever by 2026.”