Vaccines that train the immune system to recognize the peak will, in all likelihood, be vaccines that train the immune system to work effectively, and quickly-quickly enough, perhaps, to clear out an invading virus before it even has a chance to get into cells. This process, called neutralization, is carried out by specific types of antibodies, and it has revered status in the field of vaccinology, David Martinez, a vaccine expert at the University of North Carolina at Chapel, told me. Hill. Once a vaccinated person produces enough neutralizing antibodies, according to the theory, they do not need anything else to prevent the disease. And the spike protein appears to be a top notch antibody bait. “Spike is here to stay – absolutely necessary,” Smita Iyer, an immunologist at UC Davis, told me.
But although the antibodies focus on targets with laser precision, they are easily broken down by the change: even subtle changes in the structure of the tip can make it more difficult for molecules to glomine to the surface of the virus and l ‘bring to the heel. Antibody-avoidant variants of the virus, each carrying slightly invigorated versions of the tip, have now appeared in several countries, including South Africa, Brazil, India and the United States; others will certainly follow.
None of our current vaccines have yet been completely canceled by a variant of the coronavirus, and vaccine makers such as Moderna and Pfizer plan to prepare additional injections containing modified versions and taking into account the variants of the peak. The problem is, strategies like these could quickly lock us into a mismatched fencing fight: Germs mutate much faster than humans invent vaccines, and with each new outbreak we will only have time to parry back. When the spike works on its own, it creates an obvious immunological loophole through which a virus could slip.
There is another solution. We could just give the immune system more pieces of the virus to target. Several vaccines containing whole particles of coronavirus – which have been chemically incapable so that they cannot cause true infections – have already been authorized, including a couple made by Chinese company Sinopharm. However, whole virus vaccines can be difficult to produce and have shown mixed results in the past.