Science, Technology & Innovation

How Close Are Scientists to Developing a Vaccine for COVID-19?

The burning question since the outbreak of COVID-19: will there be a vaccine anytime soon? The simple answer: not anytime soon, as a vaccine takes a considerable amount of time to create. Before a vaccine can be released it must first be created, and then scientists must test the vaccine through many trials before it can be deemed effective and safe. On top of this, creating vaccines is not an inexpensive process; companies require a substantial amount of funding to have a chance of bringing a true vaccine to the stage of distribution.

In order to understand the complexities, we must understand what a vaccine is: a vaccine is an agent that gives acquired immunity to the receiver. This immunity is created through weakened or dead pathogens that cause your immune system to react and create antibodies that enable a person’s immune system to more efficiently protect their body from the pathogen in question.

Bearing all this in mind- as well as the urgent need for a vaccine to save potentially millions of lives, many companies from all across the world are nonetheless tirelessly working on a vaccine. While normally a vaccine takes at least 18 months to create and typically longer, with COVID-19 being such a threat, companies have pushed progress faster than ever before. Some of the leading-edge universities spearheading this effort are Imperial College, University College London, the University of Oxford, along with institutes and companies such as the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, in collaboration with the University of Melbourne, Moderna, Pfizer, Gilead Sciences, and BioNTech, and the Wuhan Institute of Biological Products.

Examining these studies closely, we can see that each company is tackling the issue from a very different perspective: some companies are looking towards vaccines with a similar purpose or modifying them to boost the immune system against the novel coronavirus, some are basing their studies on the SARS and MERS outbreaks for they have many similarities with COVID-19, while other companies have focused on finding the specific antibody created from COVID-19 in order to identify means of strengthening it.

Given we have a long wait for a vaccine, what else are labs working on in the meantime to mitigate the impact of COVID-19? Beyond vaccines, another possible way of defeating the novel coronavirus could be through repurposing drugs or creating treatments, such as antiviral drugs which could be available sooner than a vaccine. Several existing drugs have been repurposed, and the early results for Remdesivir, by Gilead Sciences, indicate a positive effect in treating patients with the coronavirus. New drugs are in the making as well, with the potential to at least stabilize patients’ conditions and reduce the damage done by the coronavirus.

Many believe the vaccine will come out by the end of 2020 or early 2021, but this information is subject to change. Everyday new information is being collected and this will affect our predictions.

While there is no accurate prediction for when the COVID-19 vaccine will come out and be available to the public, it is likely that we will see a drug to help battle the coronavirus before we see a vaccine to eradicate it. 

Linked Citations:

Craven, Jeff. “COVID-19 Vaccine Tracker.” Regulatory Affairs Professionals Society (RAPS), 2020 

Campbell, Molly. “Current Efforts in COVID-19 Vaccine Development.” Biopharma from Technology, Networks, 2020

Author

Jenee Berry