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How soon can we have a COVID-19 vaccine?

How soon can we have a COVID-19 vaccine?

This article was published on
June 22, 2020

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The timeline for COVID-19 vaccine availability is rapidly evolving, with differences between multiple vaccine candidates and rollout plans in different countries. While the vaccine development and testing processes normally take many years, these processes have been accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic. Several COVID-19 vaccines have reported promising results from clinical trials so far. As of December 2, 2020, Pfizer's vaccine candidate received approval from the U.K. government to begin mass distribution, with at-risk populations and healthcare workers being the first priorities. Both Pfizer's and Moderna's vaccine candidates have applied for Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the U.S. government, and have the potential to begin distribution outside of trials before the end of 2020. In a departure from the rigorous review processes typically used for vaccines, China and Russia approved and started distributing experimental vaccine candidates earlier in 2020, based on preliminary data, rather than waiting for results from large-scale trails. There are currently more than 200 potential vaccines for COVID-19 under development around the world. Each potential vaccine must be thoroughly tested to determine whether it has any harmful side effects, whether it can prevent disease in other mammals, and whether it successfully produces antibodies, which are the biological tools or instructions our immune systems need to defend against the virus. Scientists also need to assess how the immune system responds to the vaccine in general, which takes time. Even with an expedited timeline and regulatory approval process, researchers must ensure adequate clinical testing and adherence to regulatory standards, manufacturing, and quality control processes. Additionally, several COVID-19 vaccine candidates require multiple doses to be effective and cold storage during transport. There are concerns about the cost and infrastructure requirements for vaccines to be distributed equitably in certain regions of the word. Public health experts hope that multiple vaccine candidates can be widely approved and distributed in 2021, to help end the global COVID-19 pandemic.

The timeline for COVID-19 vaccine availability is rapidly evolving, with differences between multiple vaccine candidates and rollout plans in different countries. While the vaccine development and testing processes normally take many years, these processes have been accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic. Several COVID-19 vaccines have reported promising results from clinical trials so far. As of December 2, 2020, Pfizer's vaccine candidate received approval from the U.K. government to begin mass distribution, with at-risk populations and healthcare workers being the first priorities. Both Pfizer's and Moderna's vaccine candidates have applied for Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the U.S. government, and have the potential to begin distribution outside of trials before the end of 2020. In a departure from the rigorous review processes typically used for vaccines, China and Russia approved and started distributing experimental vaccine candidates earlier in 2020, based on preliminary data, rather than waiting for results from large-scale trails. There are currently more than 200 potential vaccines for COVID-19 under development around the world. Each potential vaccine must be thoroughly tested to determine whether it has any harmful side effects, whether it can prevent disease in other mammals, and whether it successfully produces antibodies, which are the biological tools or instructions our immune systems need to defend against the virus. Scientists also need to assess how the immune system responds to the vaccine in general, which takes time. Even with an expedited timeline and regulatory approval process, researchers must ensure adequate clinical testing and adherence to regulatory standards, manufacturing, and quality control processes. Additionally, several COVID-19 vaccine candidates require multiple doses to be effective and cold storage during transport. There are concerns about the cost and infrastructure requirements for vaccines to be distributed equitably in certain regions of the word. Public health experts hope that multiple vaccine candidates can be widely approved and distributed in 2021, to help end the global COVID-19 pandemic.

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What our experts say

The timeline for COVID-19 vaccine availability is rapidly evolving, with differences between multiple vaccine candidates and rollout plans in different countries.

While the vaccine development and testing processes normally take many years, these processes have been accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic. Several COVID-19 vaccines have reported promising results from clinical trials so far. As of December 2, 2020, Pfizer's vaccine candidate received approval from the U.K. government to begin mass distribution, with at-risk populations and healthcare workers being the first priorities.

Both Pfizer's and Moderna's vaccine candidates have applied for Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the U.S. government, and have the potential to begin distribution outside of trials before the end of 2020. In a departure from the rigorous review processes typically used for vaccines, China and Russia approved and started distributing experimental vaccine candidates earlier in 2020, based on preliminary data, rather than waiting for results from large-scale trails.

There are currently more than 200 potential vaccines for COVID-19 under development around the world. Each potential vaccine must be thoroughly tested to determine whether it has any harmful side effects, whether it can prevent disease in other mammals, and whether it successfully produces antibodies, which are the biological tools or instructions our immune systems need to defend against the virus. Scientists also need to assess how the immune system responds to the vaccine in general, which takes time.

Even with an expedited timeline and regulatory approval process, researchers must ensure adequate clinical testing and adherence to regulatory standards, manufacturing, and quality control processes. Additionally, several COVID-19 vaccine candidates require multiple doses to be effective and cold storage during transport. There are concerns about the cost and infrastructure requirements for vaccines to be distributed equitably in certain regions of the word. Public health experts hope that multiple vaccine candidates can be widely approved and distributed in 2021, to help end the global COVID-19 pandemic.

The timeline for COVID-19 vaccine availability is rapidly evolving, with differences between multiple vaccine candidates and rollout plans in different countries.

While the vaccine development and testing processes normally take many years, these processes have been accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic. Several COVID-19 vaccines have reported promising results from clinical trials so far. As of December 2, 2020, Pfizer's vaccine candidate received approval from the U.K. government to begin mass distribution, with at-risk populations and healthcare workers being the first priorities.

Both Pfizer's and Moderna's vaccine candidates have applied for Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the U.S. government, and have the potential to begin distribution outside of trials before the end of 2020. In a departure from the rigorous review processes typically used for vaccines, China and Russia approved and started distributing experimental vaccine candidates earlier in 2020, based on preliminary data, rather than waiting for results from large-scale trails.

There are currently more than 200 potential vaccines for COVID-19 under development around the world. Each potential vaccine must be thoroughly tested to determine whether it has any harmful side effects, whether it can prevent disease in other mammals, and whether it successfully produces antibodies, which are the biological tools or instructions our immune systems need to defend against the virus. Scientists also need to assess how the immune system responds to the vaccine in general, which takes time.

Even with an expedited timeline and regulatory approval process, researchers must ensure adequate clinical testing and adherence to regulatory standards, manufacturing, and quality control processes. Additionally, several COVID-19 vaccine candidates require multiple doses to be effective and cold storage during transport. There are concerns about the cost and infrastructure requirements for vaccines to be distributed equitably in certain regions of the word. Public health experts hope that multiple vaccine candidates can be widely approved and distributed in 2021, to help end the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Context and background

Contrary to U.S. President Trump's claims that a safe and effective vaccine could be ready by the November 2020 U.S. election, the Director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was correct in stating that a safe and effective vaccine was unlikely to be ready at that time. Efforts are on track for a few COVID-19 vaccine candidates to be approved and to begin distribution by the end of 2020 and early 2021, which is already record-breaking timeframe for vaccine development.

The rush for a COVID-19 vaccine is unprecedented in its speed, the number of labs and companies working to develop one, and the global pressure to develop a safe, effective vaccine on such a large scale.

Prior to COVID-19, the shortest amount of time it took to develop a vaccine was for mumps, which took roughly four years. Scientists have been working on a vaccine for Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) for 20 years and still have yet to find a successful one. Because scientists discovered the genetic sequence of COVID-19 so rapidly, and so many groups are working around the clock to develop an effective vaccine, with unparalleled funding, the public health, medical, and pharmaceutical fields are hopeful to have a vaccine available much faster. Even after a vaccine is developed, adequate manufacturing, supply chain, and distribution networks also need to be coordinated in order to get the vaccine to people across the world.

Contrary to U.S. President Trump's claims that a safe and effective vaccine could be ready by the November 2020 U.S. election, the Director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was correct in stating that a safe and effective vaccine was unlikely to be ready at that time. Efforts are on track for a few COVID-19 vaccine candidates to be approved and to begin distribution by the end of 2020 and early 2021, which is already record-breaking timeframe for vaccine development.

The rush for a COVID-19 vaccine is unprecedented in its speed, the number of labs and companies working to develop one, and the global pressure to develop a safe, effective vaccine on such a large scale.

Prior to COVID-19, the shortest amount of time it took to develop a vaccine was for mumps, which took roughly four years. Scientists have been working on a vaccine for Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) for 20 years and still have yet to find a successful one. Because scientists discovered the genetic sequence of COVID-19 so rapidly, and so many groups are working around the clock to develop an effective vaccine, with unparalleled funding, the public health, medical, and pharmaceutical fields are hopeful to have a vaccine available much faster. Even after a vaccine is developed, adequate manufacturing, supply chain, and distribution networks also need to be coordinated in order to get the vaccine to people across the world.

Resources

  1. Developing Covid-19 Vaccines at Pandemic Speed (NEJM)
  2. Accelerating a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine (WHO)
  3. Dr. Anthony Fauci says there’s a chance coronavirus vaccine may not provide immunity for very long (CNBC)
  1. Developing Covid-19 Vaccines at Pandemic Speed (NEJM)
  2. Accelerating a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine (WHO)
  3. Dr. Anthony Fauci says there’s a chance coronavirus vaccine may not provide immunity for very long (CNBC)

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