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How long will it take to have a vaccine for COVID-19?

Companies working feverishly to come up with one, but experts skeptical it can be done quickly

Houston-area researchers are working on a possible coronavirus vaccine... but it may be a while
Houston-area researchers are working on a possible coronavirus vaccine... but it may be a while

Right now, it’s an amazing race, and we’re not talking about that popular TV show on CBS.

Instead, the race is on among scientists and medical professionals around the world to come up with a vaccine for the new coronavirus, COVID-19.

So, has there been any progress toward a vaccine? How long will it be before it’s in the hands of doctors around the world?

Here’s a breakdown of the amazing vaccine race.


Who is trying to make a vaccine?

It’s hard to quantify an exact number of groups working feverishly on a vaccine, but it appears to be high.

There are 19 companies alone in the U.S., according to MarketWatch. For a description of those companies, click or swipe here.

There’s also another group at the University of Queensland in Australia that is working on a vaccine, according to HealthLine, while several companies and scientists in Europe and China are trying to produce a vaccine as well, according to the New York Times.

How long have past vaccines taken to make?

The first vaccine of the swine flu that plagued the U.S. in 2009 took roughly six months to arrive, according to NewScientist.

During the SARS outbreak in 2002-03, it took 20 months for a vaccine to be prepared for clinical trial, USA Today reported.

How long do experts forecast for a COVID-19 vaccine to be created?

Technology has evolved over the past decade, and there is obviously more motivation than ever to find a vaccine given the physical and financial destruction COVID-19 has caused around the world, but it will still take some time.

Just exactly how much time depends on who you talk to.

Moderna, one of the U.S. companies working on a vaccine, said it could have a vaccine ready for a phase one clinical trial in people within three months.

Both Moderna and Pennsylvania-based Inovio said they would have a vaccine to test on animals in roughly one month.

The University of Queensland is hoping to have a vaccine ready for testing within 16 weeks, or less than four months.

But the person many in America have become to rely on most for insight, Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, has said 12-18 months is a better estimate.

Other experts told CNN that even Fauci’s estimates are optimistic and that it could take longer.

What, historically, are the phases for vaccine development?

In the past, developing vaccines has been a process that takes years, not necessarily months, according to the College of Physicians of Philadelphia.

For full details of the process, click or tap here.

For a more condensed summary of the stages, read on:

Exploratory stage - This involves basic laboratory research to help prevent or treat a disease. Often, it lasts about two to four years.

Pre-clinical stage - Here, scientists do some animal testing to asses the safety of the vaccine or ability to provoke an immune response. Animal subjects can include mice or monkeys.

IND application - A company submits an application for an Investigational New Drug to the U.S. Food and Drug administration, describing the manufacturing and testing process, among other things. The FDA has 30 days to approve the application. If approved, the vaccine then has three phases of testing.

Phase I vaccine trials - This is the first attempt to try out the vaccine in a small group of adults -- usually 20 to 80 subjects. The goals are to assess the safety of the vaccine and to determine the immune response it provokes.

Phase II vaccine trials - The vaccine is tested on a larger group of individuals to assess the safety of the vaccine and method of delivery.

Phase III vaccine trials - If the vaccine passed the first two phases, it’s then tested on tens of thousands of people to make sure there are few adverse side effects and the vaccine is effective.

Approval and licensure - If the Phase III trial goes well, a Biologics License Application is sent to the FDA, which then inspects where the vaccine will be made and its labeling.

Beyond this phase, the FDA continues to monitor the production of the vaccine, where it’s made and if there are any side effects.


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