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A polio vaccine can protect against coronaviruses, top experts say

There is plenty of evidence that existing inoculations such as polio vaccine protect children against a wide range of infections and it is worth trying them against the new coronavirus, a team of experts in Science magazine wrote Thursday.

An oral polio vaccine is safe, cheap, easy to administer and widely available, with over 1 billion doses produced and used annually in more than 140 countries, according to the team, which includes one of the researchers who discovered HIV and a vaccine expert from the Food and Drug Administration . The vaccine has almost eradicated polio worldwide.

The oral polio vaccine uses a weakened version of the polio virus. The live attenuated vaccines produce a strong and long-lasting immune response, vaccine experts said. They are slower to manufacture than modern vaccines that use only a piece of genetic material from a virus, and the US and European companies that work with vaccines against coronavirus focus more quickly.
It would make sense to at least test it to see if it helps against coronavirus, said Konstantin Chumakov of the FDA and Dr. Robert Gallo from the Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland, along with his colleagues.
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Gallo discovered the virus that causes AIDS while Chumakov is associate director of research at the FDA’s vaccine division.

“We propose the use of OPV (oral poliovirus vaccine) to enhance or prevent COVID-19. Both polioviruses and coronaviruses are positive strand RNA viruses; therefore, they are likely to be able to induce and be affected by common innate immunity mechanisms,” they wrote. “… Oral poliovirus vaccine in particular can provide temporary protection against coronavirus disease.”

The oral polio vaccine produces herd effects, they wrote. Herd immunity is achieved when the majority of a certain population – 70% to 90% – becomes immune to an infectious disease, either because they have become infected and recovered or through vaccination.

In addition to protecting vulnerable individuals, it could also prevent the spread of the new corona virus by increasing the proportion of incomprehensible individuals, Chumakov, Gallo and colleagues wrote.

“The risk of complications due to OPV is extremely low,” they added. It can cause a polio-like complication, but only in about one in every 3 million doses given, and then mostly in immunocompromised children.

Doctors know that the benefits of vaccination extend beyond the specific targeted bacteria.

“Other live attenuated viral vaccines such as those against measles and smallpox have also been associated with pronounced non-specific protective effects against infectious diseases,” they wrote.

“In Africa, when measles vaccine was introduced into society, the overall mortality rate of children decreased by more than 50%, a decrease that was much greater than expected due to protection against measles death alone,” they added.

OPV is no longer licensed or available in the United States, but is still used in some parts of the world, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Children receive vaccine doses with drops in the mouth.
Coronavirus has infected more than 2 million people in the United States and killed nearly 114,000. With ever-changing timelines, no one is sure when a vaccine will be available, but the target is next year.
Vaccines under development around the world are in various stages of testing. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said he is confident that one of the vaccine candidates will be proven safe and effective by the first quarter of 2021.

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