Last updated 16 April 2022
In 1968, an “informal group of virologists” submitted . In that article, they described a novel group of viruses isolated from different animals and from humans. They suggested the viruses be named “coronaviruses” because their surface resembled the uppermost layer of the Sun, the “corona.” (“Corona” is also Spanish for “crown,” with roots in Latin.) Since that first discovery, coronaviruses have been identified in many species of animals, and they have been linked to different illnesses, most of them respiratory.
Among humans, four coronaviruses (HCoV-229E, HCoV-NL63, HCoV-OC43, HCoV-HKU1) are known to cause cold-like respiratory illnesses. In 2002, a fifth human coronavirus -- known as SARS CoV because it caused a “severe acute respiratory syndrome” -- , including Europe, North America, Australia and Africa. In 2013, a sixth human coronavirus -- known as MERS because it caused the Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome -- , with cases identified in the Middle East, Northern Africa, Asia, and the United States.
A seventh human coronavirus -- known as SARS CoV-2 -- . The city of Wuhan in the Hubei Province saw a spike in respiratory disease cases. The disease was given the designation COVID-19 for “coronavirus disease 2019.” Unlike the previous five known human coronaviruses, SARS CoV-2 would set off a pandemic, with millions of cases and deaths worldwide. No country on the planet has been spared from the effects of the pandemic.
In 2020, with the pandemic fully underway, world governments raced to create vaccines as countermeasures. In August 2020, the government of Russia announced it had fast-tracked the creation of a vaccine, . Between April and July 2020, Sinovac Biotech Ltd., a Chinese biotech company, , named Coronavac. Around the same time, clinical trials of two novel vaccines (made by biotech companies and ) began in the United States. where messenger RNA (mRNA) would be used to deliver a message to immune cells to create their own version of a protein that looks like the proteins on the surface of the virus. This would allow vaccines to be created without the need to grow the virus in a laboratory. All that would be needed is the genetic code for the virus’ proteins.
In December 2020, the United States Food and Drug Administration authorized two mRNA vaccines for emergency use. In February 2021, . The Janssen vaccine delivers mRNA to immune cells inside an inactivated adenovirus, triggering the recipient immune cells to create proteins, much in the same way that the vaccines made by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech do.
Other vaccines have been in development against SARS CoV-2. The New York Times has a great . The online tool keeps track of the progress in research and clinical trials of numerous vaccines around the world. For example, , and so has a Kazakhstani vaccine. As of April 15, 2022, the tracking tool shows 19 vaccines authorized for emergency use and 12 given full approval for use. Unfortunately, , and many are too poor to afford acquiring vaccines for their populations.
Vaccines are not the only countermeasures used against the COVID-19 pandemic. National, state, and local governments mandated social distancing, quarantine of people exposed, and isolation of people who test positive for SARS CoV-2 infection. Many governments recommended and/or mandated the use of facial masks to prevent the transmission of the virus. Some societies accepted these mandates better than others. The Food and Drug Administration has also authorized — and experts have recommended — .