According to reporting from National Geographic, scientists are working on contagious vaccines that can jump from vaccinated people to unvaccinated ones, or between vaccinated and unvaccinated animals.
The idea is that instead of a vaccine staying in one person's body, the vaccine itself would infect them in such a way that they could pass on vaccination to others around them, much as they would otherwise pass on a disease. Scientists could vaccinate one person or animal in a community, and the vaccination would spread to those around them.
According to National Geographic, scientists are already studying these self-spreading vaccines for Ebola, bovine tuberculosis, and Lassa fever. They are also exploring expanding study to other diseases. Self-spreading vaccines were tested in rabbits on an island in Spain in 1999, but have not otherwise been used in the wild.
Could Self-Spreading Covid-19 Vaccines Be Created?
The reporting from National Geographic does not specifically mention any attempt at a self-spreading COVID-19 vaccine. Still, the technique raises questions about safety. If a self-spreading vaccine caused problems in vaccinated people, it could potentially spread those problems just as aggressively as an actual disease. Although the scientists are currently focused on eliminating animal diseases primarily, it’s also possible that a self-spreading vaccine designed for animals could jump to humans, and cause unknown effects.
It’s unlikely that self-spreading vaccines would be used anytime soon. Especially in human populations, these contagious vaccines would raise all kinds of ethical and consent issues. Still, the technology is under study and development. There’s no telling how it might be used in the future.
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