In late April 2020, a team from Oxford University said that they had developed a COVID-19 vaccine. The United States National Institutes of Health tested it in rhesus monkeys, and it worked. Because they had already been working on a vaccine against a different coronavirus, they had a head start working on one for SARS-CoV-2. They would try to test their vaccine on 6000 people by the end of May 2020, and that their vaccine could be ready for people to use in September 2020.
In November 2020, two companies, Pfizer and Moderna both said their vaccines had completed some testing. Both were over 90% effective. Both companies asked the United States Food and Drug Administration for permission to start giving the vaccine to people. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are messenger RNA vaccines they teach the body to recognize the virus. They say mRNA vaccines take less time to develop and make than protein or whole-virus vaccines.
A 90 year old woman from Northern Ireland was the first to receive the Pfizer vaccine on December 8, 2020.
A study from a British company called Synairgen showed that some patients with mild COVID-19 who took interferon beta were less likely to develop severe COVID-19, and they got better faster. The doctors gave the patients interferon beta by letting them breathe in a spray. The study was performed on 101 patients, which is not many. The scientists gave some patients interferon beta and other patients a placebo, a harmless but empty spray. The COVID-19 patients who received the real medicine were 79% less likely to develop a severe case. As of July 2020, scientists are planning to test inhaled interferon beta in a larger study with 400 patients to see if it really does help.
Unlike hydroxychloroquine, interferon beta is a common drug. Giving interferon beta to COVID-19 patients would not mean taking medicine away from people with malaria or lupus.
Some people thought hydroxychloroquine, a medicine given to people with malaria, lupus, and arthritis, might work against COVID-19. One study from China showed that COVID-19 patients who took hydroxychloroquine got better faster, but the study was not peer reviewed. Other studies in France and China seemed to show hydroxychloroquine helped, but the doctors did not compare patients who took hydroxychloroquine to patients who did not, so they could not be sure it was the hydroxychloroquine that was helping them or whether it was something else. United States President Donald Trump said he was taking hydroxychloroquine and told other people to take it too, but Dr. Anthony Fauci, part of the White House official coronavirus task force, said no one could know for sure if hydroxychloroquine worked against SARS-CoV-2. In March, the United States Food and Drug Administration allowed doctors to give hydroxychloroquine and another drug called chloroquine to COVID-19 patients, but in June, they told doctors to stop. By then, more studies had shown that the drugs did not help much and could harm the patients' hearts.
Some scientists also think the drug remdesivir, which was invented as a medicine for Ebola, could work against SARS-CoV-2. Remdesivir works against other viruses and it has already been tested in humans, so the doctors already knew it would not hurt the patients even if it did not make them better. Because scientists already knew remdesivir was safe, they were able to start testing it in humans right away.
Doctors gave remdesivir to some COVID-19 patients on a compassionate basis, meaning they gave them the drug because there was no other treatment available. 68% of the patients got better, 13% died, and 25% had serious side effects. But because the study had no control group, meaning these patients were not compared to other COVID-19 patients who were not taking remdesivir, and because only 53 people were in the experiment, scientists must run more studies before they can be sure remdesivir works.
The chairman and CEO of the company that makes remdesivir, David O'Day, said that remdesivir might work better in some patients than in others and asked scientists to perform many different kinds of studies. On July 3, the European Commission approved remdesivir for use in the very sickest COVID-19 patients.
Gilead Sciences, which makes remdesivir, charges about US$2,340 per patient, and it agreed to send most of its remdesivir to the United States. In July 2020, the Drug Controller General of India approved the third of three generic version of remdesivir made by Indian companies. The cheapest of them costs 4800 rupees per vial, or US$64.31.
Some scientists gave SARS and MERS to llamas so the llamas' immune systems would make antibodies, or natural medicines, against those viruses, and they found a few antibodies that worked. In a May 2020 study, the scientists said this could work with SARS-CoV-2 too.
Staying home will reduce your chances of catching coronavirus disease 2019. Wearing a mask, staying 6 feet away from people, washing your hands, using disinfectants and avoiding large crowds will prevent COVID-19. Eating a healthy diet can help you physically and emotionally.