Is Israeli COVID-19 vaccine approaching?

Research institute: 'Safety measures and security mechanisms to ensure it isn't extremely dangerous, but there could be surprises.'

Shimon Cohen ,

Coronavirus vaccine
Coronavirus vaccine

MIGAL Galilee Research Institute is currently in the midst of the race to produce a coronavirus vaccine. Arutz Sheva spoke to research group head Itai Bloch, who talks about Israeli development that began with a vaccine against avian influenza from the coronavirus family.

The uniqueness of the vaccine being developed by the research group is that it is administered orally and not by injection, and Bloch explains the advantage of such a vaccine in that it passes through the respiratory and digestive tracts, where coronavirus is found. He says the benefits of such a vaccine have been proven in the past.

"When the reports of the new coronavirus began to come in, we realized that the same development could be converted to suit human vaccination and that's where we started," says Bloch, adding that replicating the move from birds to humans is a fairly simple move. "We have already carried out the adjustment phase and we're in the development stages of the vaccine itself. It's an orderly route that we hope will yield good results," he says, but stresses that vaccine tests will continue for a while to ensure "both its effectiveness and safety".

"It's a new virus and a new vaccine. A lot of the technologies on offer are brand new, their effectiveness is unclear and it's not clear how they'll work in real time. So a lot of testing is done to make sure they're effective and relevant," he said. "But it can be said that unlike a drug, a vaccine can only be evaluated after a long time. A drug is given and how it works is seen in real time. You can't vaccinate and then infect people. It's unethical. So we won't know in the first stage which vaccines will be effective and which will not be."

Bloch further notes that this virus "has the ability to acutely activate the immune system and these vaccines can cause the immune system to react acutely in a way dangerous to humans. We hear reports of adverse events from different parts of the world."

Bloch adds that "we have a very different approach from most of the world. Most of the world is concentrated in the external system of the virus. There are two arms, the antibody arm that is injected and is supposed to neutralize the virus, and there's another arm of vaccine in the cellular system. Our vaccine is made up of elements that activate both of these arms. It should provide the most effective coverage possible."

On the date when it will be possible to determine that the vaccine is indeed effective, Bloch says that "there are companies that develop standard vaccines that have already been tested on other viruses and know how safe they are for humans. We don't know the effectiveness against coronavirus but we know what their effectiveness is based on past experience. In this case a lot of companies are developing new technologies and we don't know what their long-term effect is. Since we're in a state of global epidemic and widespread infection, we do things that haven't been done before. What was done in the past is no longer appropriate and requires adjustments. Regulators are more open to hearing new ideas along with experiments and safety measures and security mechanisms to make sure it is not extremely dangerous, but there could be surprises."

Bloch refrains from setting a target timetable as this depends not only on the progress of the pace of work in his research team, but also on the regulatory requirements that seek to ensure the quality of the vaccine and its effects. However he notes that "the world is talking about an order of magnitude of around a year, this is the earliest expectation. We're talking about mass production which is a very difficult problem. Setting up factories for such a process takes a long time and is likely to be delayed for such reasons."