With the COVID-19 pandemic still causing chaos in many countries around the world, much focus has turned to developing a vaccine to prevent the horrible respiratory disease. But how far off is a coronavirus vaccine and what’s taking so long?
At present, estimates on how long it will take to develop a safe, effective coronavirus vaccine range from one year to 18 months, with some experts warning it would take even longer. The reality is that in vaccine years that is extremely fast and the likelihood is that a coronavirus vaccine will take longer.
Right now, no less than 35 companies and academic institutions are racing to develop a vaccine for the new coronavirus. At least four have candidates that they are currently testing in animals. One, produced by Boston-based biotech firm Moderna, will begin human trials very soon.
One of the reasons why some companies had a head start creating a vaccine is because coronaviruses have caused two other recent epidemics: the 2002-2004 severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak in China and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) outbreak, which was first identified in Saudi Arabia in 2012.
In both cases, work began on vaccines, but these were later shelved when the outbreaks were contained. Some of those vaccines are now being repurposed to help in the fight against Sars-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19).
Once a COVID-19 vaccine that is safe and effective in humans has been approved, another challenge will be producing it in the vast quantities needed. In the meantime, thoroughly wash your hands regularly and follow COVID-19 advice.