2020 will surely go down in history for all the uncertainty the world has seen so far. It will be remembered as the year when the human race finally awoke to the enormity of the need of fast-paced science and research facilities that was the need of the hour. Amid the rising COVID-19 cases and lockdowns across the globe, the world now gears up for a massive coronavirus vaccination drive. There is, as they say, light at the end of the tunnel. With the uncertainty that the year has brought in, there are several medical inventions that cannot be ignored. The World Health Organization (WHO), which works in partnership with both public and private sectors, has a proud history of vaccinology. It has assured ground-breaking quality-assured, safe and effective vaccines to dozens of countries across the world for various deadly diseases like Ebola and Meningitis. The vaccines for these two diseases are the ground-breaking developments in global public health in recent history.

2020: The year of COVID-19

Coronavirus was more like an event that dominated 2020. Popularly known as COVID-19, it is a deadly and previously unknown virus, which wreaked havoc across the globe. The virus forced countries to announce shutdowns to curb the spread of the deadly virus that has infected 76,789,781 people globally while as many as 1,692,578 have been killed due to coronavirus as of December 21. However, there have been newsworthy research developments in 2020 as the pandemic set the course of science to an extraordinary degree altogether.

COVID-19 Vaccines

With the coronavirus spreading its arms across countries of the world, people eagerly anticipated every bit of progress toward a vaccine that would save lives. India has eight COVID-19 vaccine candidates, including three indigenous vaccines, under different stages of clinical trials which could be ready for authorisation in near future. It includes AstraZeneca and Oxford University developed and Serum Institute of India manufactured Covishield, Covaxin by Bharat Biotech Limited, ZyCoV-D by Zydus Cadila and Russian vaccine candidate Sputnik-V. The COVID-19 vaccine list also contains NVX-CoV2373 by SII, HGCO19 by Geneva, and two unlabeled vaccines-Recombinant Protein Antigen based vaccine by Biological E Limited-and Inactivated rabies vector platform by Bharat Biotech.

COVID-19 Vaccines in the United States:

On December 12, Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE became the first pharma duo to get the US FDA approval of their mRNA-based vaccine, BNT162b2, for emergency use to treat COVID-19. On December 19, Moderna Inc received authorisation from the US FDA for the emergency use of its vaccine mRNA-1273 against COVID-19 in individuals. "The Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine is now authorised for distribution and use under an Emergency Use Authorisation (EUA)," Moderna said in a statement.

The coronavirus vaccine by Moderna contains messenger RNA (mRNA), a genetic material. The vaccine contains a small piece of the SARS-CoV-2 virus's mRNA that directs the cells in the body to make the virus's distinctive 'spike' protein. After a person receives this vaccine, their body produces copies of the the spike protein, which does not cause disease, but triggers the immune system to react defensively. This produces an immune response against the deadly coronavirus infection. The US government plans to deliver 5.9 million Moderna shots and 2 million Pfizer shots by the end of December 2020.

The COVID-19 vaccine by  Pfizer must be stored at -70 degrees Celsius, a temperature much lower than standard freezers while that of Moderna requires -20 degrees Celsius.

COVID-19 Vaccines in the United Kingdom (UK):

The United Kingdom was the first country to approve and roll out Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine and has already begun the first vaccination drive. The vaccine shots of the Pfizer/BioNTech product being given to elderly people and healthcare workers. After Pfizer, the UK regulator also gave its nod to the Oxford University-AstraZeneca’s vaccine on December 30, becoming the second COVID-19 vaccine in the UK. The cheaper and easy-to-handle COVID-19 vaccine is developed by scientists at Oxford University and produced by AstraZeneca for human use.

Reports inform that the Oxford/AstraZeneca, AZD1222, vaccine took long for the UK regulators to assess because of differences in the efficacy rates found in different groups. The Oxford vaccine can be stored in normal refrigerators. Meanwhile, the other runners in the vaccine league are the Russian and Chinese vaccines which are being administered on a large scale, but they have not completed comparable clinical trials.

Immunisation saves millions of lives every year. According to details on the official website of the WHO, the world now has vaccines to prevent and control 25 infections, helping people of all ages live longer, healthier lives. Vaccines remain the safest, most cost-effective protection against disease and will provide a powerful tool to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

Smartphone-Connected Pacemaker Devices

Another medical invention that came to light this year was pacemaker devices that were connected via smartphones which have enhanced healing and changed healthcare system. Devices including the pacemakers and defibrillators deliver electrical impulses to the heart muscle chambers which helps to contract and pump blood to the body. They are used to prevent or correct arrhythmias (uneven heartbeats). Even though millions of patients have pacemakers, they lack an understanding of the device or how it functions. When a pacemaker is used with a mobile app, these connected devices allow patients greater insight into the health data from the pacemakers and transmit the health information to their physicians.

Universal Hepatitis C Treatment

Hepatitis C has emerged as a major public health issue, especially in the US. The ailment has been classified as a ‘silent epidemic’ by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US. Reports inform that the Hepatitis C infection can lead to serious, life-threatening health problems like liver failure, cirrhosis and liver cancer. There was no vaccine for the deadly virus and patients and many patients who received the basic medication were accompanied by adverse side effects. Reports inform that a new, approved fixed-dose combination medication has vastly improved hepatitis C treatment which was more than 90 percent effective for hepatitis C, providing an effective option for a wider scope of patients.

PARP Inhibitors for Prostate Cancer

Prostate Cancer continues to be the second-leading cause of cancer death among men in the US. Reports inform that at least one man in nine will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in his lifetime.The PARP inhibitors, also known as the pharmacological inhibitors for cancer treatment prove to be a noteworthy invention this year. The PARP Inhibitors block proteins called PARP that help repair damaged tumor DNA in people with BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations, reports said. The PARP Inhibitors are popular for their success in women’s cancers, two PARP inhibitors were used to delay the progression of prostate cancer in men with refractory cancer and DNA repair pathway mutations. As per reports, both were approved for prostate cancer in May 2020.

Watch: 2020- A Year That Set The Course Of Science To An Extraordinary Degree

Talking about COVID-19, the infection is showing no signs of slowing down at this stage. Hover, preventative measures are no longer enough and hence a long-term solution is required to address the situation. All eyes are on the vaccine, as countries gear up for a massive vaccination drive. As per the history of vaccines, it can take about 15 years to bring a vaccine to market, but it can be done in less time too, reports say. The process of developing a vaccine is as time-consuming as it involves a three-stage clinical trial process before they are sent to regulatory agencies for approval. As of now, the record holder for the fastest developed vaccine yet is a mumps vaccine that was developed in the 1960s which was developed over a 4-year time frame.

We have lost so much this year majorly because the world has been traumatised by the COVID-19 virus. We are certainly in desperate need of a total break from this pandemic saga. Hopes are high that 2021 will hopefully bring us the much needed positivity, respite from the trauma, stress and anxiety and help us live a normal life that we did prior to the pandemic. On a positive side, 2020 can be seen as a year of realisation and testing our capabilities as it has brought many of us to our knees, where we can see things differently.

(The above story first appeared on LatestLY on Dec 31, 2020 01:34 PM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website latestly.com).