BigBiology Podcasts
Episode 066: Old vaccines for new pandemics



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Art Woods, Marty Martin


Konstantin Chumakov, Robert Gallo


What has COVID-19 taught us about preparing for future epidemics? Can we trigger innate immune responses – our first lines of defense - to mitigate novel infections? Can we use live-attenuated vaccines (LAV) meant for other infections to protect us while we develop specific vaccines for new pathogens?

On this episode, we talk to virologists Konstantin Chumakov and Robert Gallo about their recent paper entitled “Old vaccines for new infections”. They and their colleagues argue that we can fight novel pathogens, like SARS-COV2, by stimulating our innate immune systems with live-attenuated vaccines developed for other pathogens (e.g., measles, rubella, polio). Such an approach might buy us time, particularly for front-line health workers or the most vulnerable among us, while pathogen-specific vaccines are developed. Many LAVs are cheap, easy to distribute, and already available where SARS-COV2 is common but its vaccine is not. We talked with Chumakov and Gallo about the prospects of using the LAV approach for future pandemics, why we didn’t use them to control COVID, and the possible mechanisms by which these old vaccines wield their surprising power.

Cover photo: COVID-19 vaccine doses administered per 100 people, Jun 15, 2021. Total number of vaccination doses administered per 100 people in the total population. This is counted as a single dose, and may not equal the total number of people vaccinated, depending on the specific dose regime (e.g. people receive multiple doses).From Our World in Data (CC BY 4.0)

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Episode 066: Old vaccines for new pandemics