Vaccine for Coronavirus – How Close are We to Build One?

Currently, COVID-19 has become one of the most dreadful pandemics of all time. Like any other virus outbreak in the past, scientists are vigorously researching to develop a vaccine against the novel coronavirus. According to the past studies on disease outbreak, protective vaccines have proved to be the best way of preventing disease spread among the population. Moreover, it is one of the safest means of stopping the pandemic.

Usually, it takes around five to ten years to develop, approve, and market a vaccine. However, looking at the worldwide situation, researchers all around the world are racing to create the vaccine as soon as possible.

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Technological advancement in today’s generation is playing a pivotal role in speeding up the process. However, we still don’t have a definite timeline by which the vaccine may be developed. Today’s article will highlight the ongoing progress of vaccine development against the novel coronavirus.

Why do we need a vaccine for COVID-19?

It is quite evident that the world’s population is still vulnerable to the COVID-19 spread. Several different clinical trials are going on to find the best possible treatment for the novel coronavirus. However, the development of a protective vaccine can help to support the immune system of the people.

Moreover, it is the best way to fight the virus, especially for infected people. Additionally, the development of a vaccine can significantly contribute to relaxing social distancing and lifting the lockdown safely.

Why is it taking time to develop a vaccine for COVID-19?

Typically, it takes around five to ten years for the development of a vaccine and achieving its approval after several clinical trials. The development of a vaccine is a very challenging process. The reason it takes that long to approve a vaccine is that every vaccine has a 90% failure rate at its initial stages of development. (1)

After the first outbreak of the novel coronavirus, it took around two and a half months for scientists to test the vaccine for the first time on humans as a clinical trial. Generally, vaccine development occurs in three sequential phases –

  • Phase I – the vaccine is first tested to check the level of safety. Additionally, the first test also reveals the type of response the body gives to the vaccine. This testing is usually performed on a group of fewer than 50 people.
  • Phase II – This phase tests the deeper issues of vaccine development, such as the durability and magnitude of the response towards the vaccine.
  • Phase III – the last stage is the real test of the efficacy of the vaccine. This test is performed on a full scale involving thousands of volunteers. (2)

Since COVID-19 is spreading rapidly and is not showing any signs of slowing down, it is essential to speed up the process of vaccine development. Researchers are running the phase I and phase II trials of the vaccine together to analyze the safety and durability quickly. Most experts are hoping to make the vaccine available by mid-2021.

Which countries have taken the initiative to develop a vaccine for COVID-19?

Currently, around 80 different groups in the world are relentlessly researching vaccines. The following countries are performing some of the ongoing clinical trials –

  • Human trials have begun in Oxford, Europe, with 800 volunteers. Among these volunteers, half of them will receive a vaccine for COVID-19, while the other group of people will act as a control and receive vaccines that protect against meningitis.
  • Last month, the scientists based in Seattle, United States, started their first human clinical trial to the COVID-19 vaccine. Unlike other studies, they have skipped the animal trial to test the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine. (3)
  • Scientists in Australia have also begun their potential vaccine trials. It is the first comprehensive pre-clinical trial that is being performed on ferrets. The scientists hope to start the human trial soon for COVID-19.

Can we have more than one COVID-19 vaccine?

Typically, out of ten products prepared in the laboratory, only one of them becomes a fielded product. However, clinical trials are performed for each product to determine the best out of the lot. Moreover, the pharmaceutical companies propose a use for all the vaccines in a target population.

The CEPI – Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations has developed a mechanism to allow the organizations to analyze the data for each vaccinated candidate and make rapid decisions to fund the next phase of a clinical trial.

Currently, many negotiations are going on to ensure that the vaccine can be accessed by people all over the world. However, the clinical trials are at an early stage right now as they have not been any confirmation about the safety and protection against the novel coronavirus.

Can the vaccine protect people of all ages from the effects of COVID-19?

Looking at the current data analysis, the vaccine may be less successful in protecting the immune systems of older people. This is because usually, the immune system of older people does not respond adequately to any immunization. Even if it does, the antibodies developed in the order may not be effective in fighting the disease. (4)

It might take more than one dose to boost the immune system of an aged person. Moreover, the distribution of vaccines will be prioritized and given to healthcare workers, followed by young people affected by the novel coronavirus.

Take away message

As the spread of COVID-19 is endangering the lives of millions of people around the world, the development of a protective vaccine has become a worldwide urgency. Typically, it takes around five to ten years for the development and approval of a protective vaccine.

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Moreover, it occurs in three sequential phases to check the safety, efficacy, and durability of the vaccine. However, looking at the current situation, many scientists are carrying out the first two phases of clinical trials simultaneously to speed up the process.

Many countries such as Europe and the United States are relentlessly working on developing the best suitable vaccine against the novel coronavirus. Although every measure is being taken under to get faster results, there is a possibility that we might not have a vaccine until mid-2021.

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