Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)


COVID-19 summary1-3

Pathogenic agent

Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2)




Breathing airborne virus-containing droplets dispersed during coughing, sneezing, or speaking among people in close contact; poorly ventilated or crowded settings; hand contact with contaminated surfaces spread to eyes, nose, or mouth by touching.


  • As of January 2022, there have been approximately 300 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 globally. Of those, it is estimated that almost 5.5 million have resulted in death due to COVID-19
  • May affect people of any age group; higher risk in elderly and people with chronic conditions (hypertension, heart/lung disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer)

As of January 2022, approximately 300 million people worldwide have been infected with the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).1

group of people with masks

Of those, it is estimated that almost 5.5 million people have died.1 First detected in China in 2019, this virus quickly spread around the world, becoming the deadliest pandemic since the influenza pandemic of 1918, which resulted in 50 million deaths worldwide.4-6

The world is not a stranger to coronaviruses. These viruses have been around for millennia in animals, with the first coronavirus being detected in humans in 1965.6-8

What characterizes SARS-CoV-2?

Coronaviruses are characterized by their distinctive spike-shaped proteins that cover the surface of the virus; before the SARS outbreak in 2002 and the MERS outbreak in 2012, they were only known for causing typical cold-like symptoms.9,10

As we have seen with this most recent pandemic, coronaviruses can mutate, resulting in new variant virus strains, which have the potential to cause more severe respiratory disease and to spread more rapidly through the population, causing death and disability and disrupting economies.4,7,10 People of all ages can be infected with SARS-CoV-2, but older people are especially vulnerable, in particular those with underlying respiratory diseases and comorbidities.11,12

covid virus

Vaccines provide protection

Apart from supportive care, there is only one drug approved, an antiviral (remdesivir), which can be used as a medical treatment for people with COVID-19, and an FDA emergency use-authorized nonvaccine antibody combination (casirivimab and imdevimab) to prevent infection.13,14 Accordingly, development of effective and safe vaccines that provide broad immunization against susceptible strains, as well as new variants, is considered the best approach in helping to protect people against the spread of this disease.15 To this end, multiple vaccines and access programs are being set up to help mitigate the impact of COVID-19 around the world.

  1. World Health Organization Covid-19 Dashboard. [Accessed 27 Aug 2021].
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Scientific Brief: SARS-CoV-2 Transmission. [Accessed 27 Aug 2021].
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). People with Certain Medical Conditions. [Accessed 27 Aug 2021].
  4. Liu Y-C, et al. COVID-19: the first documented coronavirus pandemic in history. Biomed J. 2020;43:328–333.
  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 1918 Pandemic (H1N1 virus). [Accessed 27 Aug 2021].
  6. Chang L, et al. Coronavirus disease 2019: coronaviruses and blood safety. Transfus Med Rev. 2020;34:75–80.
  7. Wertheim JO, et al. A case for the ancient origin of coronaviruses. J Virol. 2013;87(12):7039–7045.
  8. Kahn JS, McIntosh K. History and recent advances in coronavirus discovery. Pediatr Infect Dis J. 2005;24:S223–S227.
  9. Fung S, Liu D-X. Human coronavirus: host-pathogen interaction. Annu Rev Microbiol. 2019;73:529–557.
  10. de Wilde AH, et al. Host factors in coronavirus replication. Curr Top Microbiol Immunol. 2018;419:1–42.
  11. Perrotta F, et al. COVID-19 and the elderly: insights into pathogenesis and clinical decision-making. Aging Clin Exp Res. 2020;1–10 [epub ahead of print].
  12. Mueller AL, et al. Why does COVID-19 disproportionately affect older people? Aging (Albany NY). 2020;12(10):9959–9981.
  13. United States Food & Drug Administration (FDA). FDA News Release: FDA Approved First Treatment for COVID-19. 22 October 2020. Available at: [Accessed 27 Aug 2021].
  14. Pharmaceutical Technology. FDA grants EUA for Regeneron’s antibody cocktail to prevent Covid-19. [Accessed 27 Aug 2021].
  15. Xantus GZ, et al. How to best handle vaccine decliners: scientific facts and psychological approach. Postgrad Med J. 2021;139835 [epub ahead of print].

COVID-19 Vaccine news

Mar 11, 2024

Canada National Advisory Committee Publishes Recommendation for Use of Novavax's Nuvaxovid™ XBB.1.5 COVID-19 Vaccine

Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization has published guidance on the use of Nuvaxovid™ XBB.1.5, a recombinant protein subunit COVID-19 vaccine, in Canada. The recommendations...

Feb 28, 2024

Novavax’s Protein-based Non-mRNA COVID-19 Vaccine Available Now as Additional Dose for Individuals Aged 65 and Older Following U.S. CDC Advisory Committee Recommendation

Today, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) voted in favor (11 to 1; 1 abstain) to recommend that individuals aged 65...

Feb 22, 2024

Novavax and Gavi Reach Settlement on 2021 COVID-19 Vaccine Advance Purchase Agreement

Novavax, Inc. (Nasdaq: NVAX) and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance (Gavi) today announced they have reached a settlement related to the 2021 Advance Purchase Agreement (APA) for Novavax's prototype...

More product information

COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials

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Global medical information site