More than 95 coronavirus vaccines are currently being tested, seven of which are said to be. already in clinical trials, meaning more scientists are working harder and faster to find a vaccine than ever before in the history of pandemics. However, even if one of the vaccines currently under development proves to be effective, the FDA approval process typically takes a year or more.
It's too early to make predictions, but here's what we know so far about the race to develop a coronavirus vaccine that could help end the current pandemic.
One more comment before we get started. This article is intended as a tool to help you understand current Coronavirus vaccine research. It is not intended to provide medical advice. If you are looking for more information on coronavirus testing,near you (and here is ). Here is and yet. This story is updated regularly as new information comes to light.
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Vaccines 101: What it is, how it works and how long should you make one?
A vaccine is a medical treatment that protects you against a disease like the coronavirus. For a deeper dive into how vaccines work, seeby CNET's Science Editor Jackson Ryan. But however short and sweet it is, a vaccine makes your body think it already has the disease, so your body's natural defenses – the immune system – . Then, if you become infected, your body calls on the antibodies to fight the virus before you feel sick.
Vaccines usually take about 10 to 15 years to develop. That's partly because every new medical treatment has to be thoroughly tested for safety before it can be spread to millions or billions of people. The mumps vaccine has lasted four years, which is widely regarded as the fastest vaccine approval in the history of infectious diseases.
The current landscape of the coronavirus vaccine
Last week, the White House announced Operation Warp Speed, a type of coronavirus vaccine task force that has identified 14 vaccine projects that it says will focus on fast-tracking. The goal of the project is to have 300 million doses of vaccine available by January 2021. That's a bit faster than the estimated 12 to 18 month timeline proposed by the U.S. infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci.
as of this writing, 97 vaccine projects are underway in countries around the world, including the US, UK, Germany, Japan and China. Twelve are already in clinical trials or starting in the coming months. Of those 12, Oxford University appears to be leading the pack with a vaccine that researchers say could be ready in the fall of 2020.
How good are the chances of finding a vaccine?
Not great. Only about 6% of candidate vaccines ever come on the market, and not just because they don't work. There is a whole host of problems that even a promising candidate can cancel. Take, for example, what happened when scientists tried to develop a vaccine for SARS – it failed and even made people more susceptible to the disease. The same happened with a dengue fever vaccine. To make matters worse, coronaviruses are a large class of viruses and so far there are no vaccines for them.
However, this particular coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, has some unique properties that can help researchers who are on a vaccine. For example, some viruses, such as flu, mutate quickly and often, which is why there is a new flu vaccine every year. This coronavirus doesn't seem to do that. While it is still too early to be completely sure what will happen by the time a vaccine is ready, it is believed that the virus has not mutated significantly enough to interfere with vaccine development, and is not expected to.
What steps does a vaccine have to go through to be approved?
Rules and regulations vary by country, but generally most industrialized countries have similar protocols for approving a vaccine. The following path is how vaccines are approved in the US under the Food and Drug Administration:
- Before clinical trials can begin: Once a laboratory has researched and developed a potential vaccine, including testing in animal models and working at manufacturing and quality control processes, it may apply to the FDA to initiate clinical trials.
- Phase 1 clinical trials: The vaccine is tested for safety and effectiveness in a small number (dozens) of closely controlled subjects.
- Phase 2 Clinical Trials: Different doses of the vaccine are tested on hundreds of human subjects.
- Phase 3 Clinical Studies: Thousands of subjects have been enrolled to measure the overall effectiveness of the vaccine.
- If a vaccine goes through all three stages: The laboratory must submit an application to the FDA for a permit to manufacture and distribute the vaccine. That application is being reviewed by both FDA and non-FDA scientists.
- If Approved: The lab begins to manufacture the vaccine while the FDA closely monitors production.
- Stage 4: While the vaccine may be marketed at this time, many vaccines continue to conduct so-called Phase 4 studies, with the FDA continuing to assess the safety and efficacy of the vaccine.
What happens if we never find a coronavirus vaccine?
The longer we go without a vaccine, the more likely the focus will shift to treatments, such as the experimental antiviral Remdesivir, which has shown promising results. Many viruses that used to be deadly are no longer death sentences. Thanks to the same progress in treatment, patients with HIV can now expect the same life expectancy as non-HIV positive individuals.
Without a coronavirus vaccine, the path to normal can be more difficult and longer, but not necessarily impossible.including and efforts should probably be intensified. Closure measures would likely slowly lift although cities and states could bring them back, including and . Ultimately, the world's population can reach the percentage of 60% to 70% required for to protect those who are not immune.