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Why the COVID-19 vaccines came quickly

Published: May. 1, 2021 at 4:56 PM CDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA) - It’s difficult to go a day without hearing about it, COVID-19.

In order to fully understand how we’ve handled the pandemic, we need to turn back the clocks to 2003 when an outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS 1, occurred. SARS 2 is what we know as COVID-19. So, how was the the first SARS halted before it got out of hand?

Dr. Shankar Kurra, the Vice President of Medical Affairs at Monument Health, speaks to the differences between the two similar viruses.

“This first SARS didn’t spread as rapidly as this current SARS. The other difference is this one starts spreading before the person develops symptoms,” Kurra says.

It was easier to identify and quarantine people with the virus nearly two decades ago, because they couldn’t spread it until they showed signs. Regardless, there was a loss of life.

“Even then, it spread to at least thirty plus countries and caused 800 deaths,” says Kurra.

Not to the extent of the current outbreak.

“This one, as you can imagine, two hundred and twenty countries worldwide, 3 million cases, and in the United States, five hundred thousand deaths, and South Dakota, roughly two thousand deaths,” Kurra says.

Scientists went to work quickly in 2003 to battle the virus.

“The good news is,” Kurra says, “they were testing vaccines against SARS 1, and so we learned precious knowledge from that.”

The vaccines that we have were developed in only eleven months, an unheard of timeline, compliments of existing knowledge. They offer a chance to stop the pandemic altogether

“There was a lot of research from 2003 until 2020 when this COVID-19 outbreak occurred that we understood how this Coronavirus behaves. In fact, all vaccines today, including the 3 that are given authorization by the FDA were beneficiaries of that research. Without that research we wouldn’t have a successful vaccine,” Kurra says.

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