The development of a vaccine is a lengthy process and it often takes years of collaboration and coordination between laboratories, private companies, and governments around the world. Experts say that a vaccine for the new coronavirus could take at least a year to a year and a half to be proven safe, effective and available to distribute on a large scale.
The executive director of the WHO Health Emergencies Program said a vaccine is at least a year away. But, a professor of vaccinology at Oxford University said she is 80% confident that her team's vaccine could be ready by September.
Her statement cut the estimated development time down to 6 months. She said that human trials for her team's vaccine will begin in about 2 weeks. She added that she was working with the UK government to start the production before finalizing the vaccine. This plan would allow the public to access the vaccine as soon as it passes the test.
A 43-year-old woman became the first human in the world to receive a potential vaccine for the new coronavirus. The vaccine was code-named mRNA-1273. It was developed by the US National Institute Of Health (NIH) and the Massachusetts-based biotechnology company Moderna Inc.
Inovio Pharmaceuticals is working on another potential vaccine code-named INO-4800. The US-based company began testing the vaccine on human participants in early April.
In China, a vaccine created by CanSino Biological Inc. and the Beijing Institute Of Biotechnology is also in the clinical human testing phase.
Experts suggest that a vaccine that can be used in a mass vaccination campaign needs around 12 to 18 months to prepare. But, if we are looking for an experimental vaccine that is safe and effective enough to be administered to high-risk groups such as health workers, then that vaccine could be ready within weeks or months.
Scientists have a bit of a head start in developing a COVID-19 vaccine, as the genome sequencing of the new coronavirus that was provided by China showed that it shares 79% of the same genetic material as SARS and 50% of the same material as MERS. This allowed scientists to use work already done for vaccines for those viruses.