Coronavirus: Can vaccines against pneumonia protect against COVID-19? WHO issues advice
Coronavirus is destructive on two fronts – the direct threat it poses to human life and the fear it sows in its wake. The latter makes the former worse, however, as fear can paralyse people’s sense-making abilities and allow false information to spread. False information can drive you to make decisions that put you in harm’s way so it is important to counter any myths with the current evidence-based knowledge.
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Vaccinations for the virus is one area in which false claims have hatched.
You may have heard that vaccines against pneumonia protect you against the new coronavirus, but this is information is false, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Vaccines against pneumonia, such as pneumococcal vaccine and Haemophilus influenza type B (Hib) vaccine, do not provide protection against the coronavirus.
As WHO explains, the virus is so new and different that it needs its own vaccine.
“Researchers are trying to develop a vaccine against 2019-nCoV, and WHO is supporting their efforts,” the health body has said.
It adds: “Although these vaccines are not effective against 2019-nCoV, vaccination against respiratory illnesses is highly recommended to protect your health.”
What we do know so far
Research has shown that the virus is transmissible through cough droplets and can survive in the air and on contaminated objects.
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A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine has found that virus is detectable for up to three hours in aerosols, up to four hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel.
“This virus is quite transmissible through relatively casual contact, making this pathogen very hard to contain,” said James Lloyd-Smith, a co-author of the study and a UCLA professor of ecology and evolutionary biology.
He added: “If you’re touching items that someone else has recently handled, be aware they could be contaminated and wash your hands.”
To arrive at this verdict, the study attempted to mimic the virus being deposited onto everyday surfaces in a household or hospital setting by an infected person through coughing or touching objects, for example.
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The scientists then investigated how long the virus remained infectious on these surfaces.
The study further supports the advice issued by public health bodies to wash your hands regularly with soapy water for 20 seconds.
What should I do if I think I have it?
According to the NHS you should stay at home for seven days if you have mild symptoms of the virus.
Mild symptoms include:
- A high temperature – this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature)
- A new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or three or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual)
The health body specifically advises against going to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital if you show mild symptoms.
This is a critical part of the social distancing measure to minimise the risk of spreading the virus to those most vulnerable.
Reducing the rate of transmission will also buy precious time to ease pressure off the healthcare system and support the effort to develop a vaccine.
Coronavirus – UK latest
As of 9am on 21 March 2020, 72,818 people have been tested in the UK, of which 67,800 have been confirmed negative, while 5,018 are positive.
233 patients in the UK who tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) have died.
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