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Coronavirus – your questions answered


Q. What is a coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses which may cause illness in animals or humans.  In humans, several coronaviruses are known to cause respiratory infections ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). The most recently discovered coronavirus causes coronavirus disease COVID-19.

COVID-19 is the infectious disease caused by the most recently discovered coronavirus. This new virus and disease were unknown before the outbreak began in Wuhan, China, in December 2019.


Q What is the industry in Europe doing to help in the fight against the coronavirus?

As an industry #WeWontRest in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic and preventing future outbreaks. Our first thoughts are with all those affected by the coronavirus pandemic. As an industry we are committed to working collaboratively across the research and healthcare communities, utilising our world-leading science, people and resources to tackle this outbreak. Our aims in this time of public health crisis are to; ensure the safe supply of medicines to the patients that need them, research and develop new vaccines, diagnostics and treatments for use in the fight against COVID-19 and partner and support organisations on the ground to fight against COVID-19.


Q. Where do I find accurate information on the coronavirus outbreak

There are a number of sources of accurate and up-to-date information on the coronavirus outbreak such as the World Health Organisation and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. Health advice should be accessed from national authorities or your health provider.

With the volume of COVID-19 content on social media, always remember to check the source(s) for reliable information.

Q: Are there any vaccines for citizens or treatment options for patients with COVID-19?

There are no currently approved vaccines or therapeutics to prevent transmission of, or treat, the COVID-19 virus. However, approved treatments have been used to alleviate symptoms and address complications of patients. EFPIA members are working around the clock to find vaccines, diagnostics and treatments to use in the fight against coronavirus

There are several ongoing clinical trials (82 clinical trials planned or pending worldwide on 16 March 2020), with three already occurring in the European Union.

Q. What is a vaccine? And how do they work?

A vaccine is a biological preparation used to produce or improve immunity against a particular disease like COVID-19. By inoculating killed or weakened disease-causing microorganisms (or crucial fragments, products or derivatives) the production of antibodies is stimulated. If and when the immune system encounters the disease-causing microorganism, it then itself prevents the disease through reacting rapidly and effectively.

The human immune system is a system of biological structures and processes that protects us against diseases by recognising germs that enter the body as foreign invaders (a.k.a. pathogens). These are referred to as antigens, a term which stands for “antibody generator”. When antigens invade the human body, the immune system responds by producing protein substances called antibodies and highly specific cells that can fight the invading germs.

Immunity is the body’s successful defence against a pathogen. When a sufficient number of antibodies has been produced by the body to fight the disease, immunity results, providing protection against the disease for many months, for years or even for a lifetime. If a person later comes into contact with that same pathogen again, the immune system will be able to quickly produce the same type of antibodies preventing the disease from developing or decreasing its severity and eliminating the pathogen from the body. Through “immunological memory”, it is estimated that the immune system can remember or recognise and effectively combat hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, of different foreign organisms.

Vaccination involves the introduction of a limited quantity of a specific disease antigen into the human body stimulating the immune system just enough to produce the amount of antibodies needed while not causing the disease.




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