Using an old approach to developing a Corona Virus vaccine?

Mar 15, 2020
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I was reading an article on how long and complicated it is to design and manufacture a vaccine for the Corona-virus. I started to wonder, if it is so complicated and time consuming, how did they ever develop the vaccine for small-pox back in the late 1800’s?

So I looked it up and here is the crux of the discovery.

Smallpox vaccine, the first successful vaccine to be developed, was introduced by Edward Jenner in 1796. He followed up his observation that milkmaids who had previously caught cowpox did not later catch smallpox by showing that inoculated cowpox protected against inoculated smallpox.

(from another article on the manufacture of the vaccine)
After calves had been inoculated with smallpox, the lymph containing white blood cells which fight against disease are extracted and preserved in capillary tubes. This is then used to vaccinate people against smallpox. Calf lymph replaced the human kind in 1898 as human lymph spread other infections, such as syphilis. The vaccine was made by the Jenner Institute for Calf Lymph Ltd.

Instead of spending millions and years of effort to develop a virtual vaccine, you would think those responsible would be harvesting the white blood cells from those who were infected and survived and using that to vaccinate people against Covid-19.

Now, I know that we have many smart researchers working on this problem and obiously they know some reason why this approach will not work in this and other similar cases.

So, does anyone have any insight into this?



Nov 12, 2019
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The original smallpox vaccine was crude in the extreme, and involved scratching the skin of a patient, then rubbing in exudate from cowpox lesions (and this material was sometimes cross-contaminated). The smallpox vaccine was a critical moment in our understanding of disease transmission and antibodies, but the process was unsafe by any current standard. We got lucky. :)

The History section, including Variolation and Early Vaccination, are both revealing and sobering.

Modern clinical process is governed by far more regulation, health and safety guidelines and testing protocols.
The time to develop a vaccine now is very long, estimated at 18-24 months including clinical trials, but it's worth the wait. Even so, many people are still very nervous about vaccines in general.
Experimental vaccines are often offered to front line workers first, who do assume some risk in trying to avoid pathogens: health care workers, members of the military and so on.

I'd love to hear more input on this process from others, too!
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