Most health experts agree that the need for a vaccine is apparent.
“To return to a semblance of earlier normality, the maturation of SARS-CoV-2 vaccines is an absolute necessity” is the way the perspective in Science magazine puts it.
So it is hardly surprising that all over the world, anticipation is high. With over 100 vaccines under development, researchers are reasonably convinced that one will be successful. Skeptics, and there are some, remind us there is absolutely no vaccine, and that optimism about an AIDS vaccine was once high.
Even if experts today are right that a vaccine for COVID-19 will be easier to grow than an AIDS vaccine, estimates for when it will be widely available vary. Below are a few of the queries being increased — and also what we know at this point.
Is your deadline for COVID-19 quicker compared to previous vaccines?
President Trump has provided the most optimistic estimate. He said he expects the United States to have a vaccine by the end of 2020.
It does look like the vaccine will be developed quicker than previously in vaccine background. It took two or more decades to come up with a successful polio vaccine. Federal health officials imply a COVID-19 vaccine might be ready at a tenth of the moment.
However, there are just many others, not so much, and a few things which you can fast-track. And even though the Food and Drug Administration is currently going to be assessing the various stages of testing with fantastic speed in this situation, specific standards must be fulfilled: First, you need to prove that a vaccine is safe. Then you have to establish that the response you want is generated by it. And then you need to find out if it prevents people.
How would scientists know they have developed a vaccine that works?
Vaccine studies present researchers with a problem: You want people to be exposed to the disease being targeted since you need to know whether your vaccine is working. Yet, in another sense, you do not want them to be exposed because you don’t need them to become sick.
The way is that you give a vaccine, and a different group receives a sham injection, which does not include the vaccine being analyzed. You then see if the group is protected.
So how are they likely to get vulnerable, in this case, the novel coronavirus? If there’s a lot of viruses, that is one way.
Another chance that people have spoken about seeing if a candidate vaccine prevents them and is intentionally infecting volunteers. This way, you know for sure that the volunteer testers have been exposed and may be assured that if that individual does not get sick, the vaccine works. Such studies are fraught, since volunteers are deliberately infected by you using a virus for which there is not a cure.
The alternative to battle trials would be to vaccinate people so that you can be confident the some fraction of them will be exposed to this virus. The number you will need to protect depends on how common the coronavirus is in the region where the vaccine is being tested. You then compare another group that acquired a sham vaccine to search for efficacy and the vaccinated group.
Once a vaccine has been developed, how does the manufacturing process work?
“The requirement to scale until these kinds of numbers we are talking about inside the short time-frame that we’re speaking about is an extraordinary effort,” says Emilio Emini. He has been focusing on experiments for decades and now leads the HIV program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (that will be a funder of both NPR and this site ).
Making billions of doses of vaccine is a Herculean job.
The resources that you will need for manufacturing one change considerably based on the type of vaccine you’re making, but often, you need something called a bioreactor — a giant tank that allows the organisms that are spewing out the vaccine of interest to grow.
You could be talking about a bioreactor, and you are not going to go down to your local hardware store and select up one of these. So that is one issue. There’s specialty gear that has to be produced.
In addition to the important stuff, there are smaller things to take into consideration, such as glass.
“You have to put a product into a sterile vial or syringe, and there is only so much of the glass to go about,” says Fred Porter, senior vice president for technical operations at Adrenal Therapeutics. “If we’re thinking about billions of doses to be able to deliver vaccines around the world, that becomes an important bottleneck.”
Is creating a vaccine available worldwide significant?
Seth Berkley, CEO of a company called Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, believes you can’t roll out a vaccine one nation at one moment.
“We are not going to be secure as a planet unless everywhere is secure,” he states. “So even though we’d parts of the world that could have low disperse or no spread, if you had substantial reservoirs of the virus in different areas, obviously you own a risk of reintroduction.”
With over 100 vaccines in development around the globe, is it safe to say the vast majority of them are never likely to become viable candidates?
They may not succeed for a variety of factors. They might not work, or they operate but are too hard to manufacture. At this stage of evolution, many are expected to fail. That’s just the nature of vaccine trials.
Can it be possible that we don’t get only one vaccine but that multiple vaccines are developed that might work even in somewhat different ways?
It sounds likely, since there are numerous approaches to making vaccines which have benefits and disadvantages. Some are trustworthy and have worked to get viral disorders. Some you can make considerably faster, but it’s unclear that they will be powerful. Experts like Emilio Emini consider the evolution of multiple vaccines is a good thing.
“It is my perspective that this is going to need more than one powerful vaccine,” he states. “It is going to require at least a few, or even more, which are successfully developed in parallel so that the scope of what will be required can be fulfilled.”
Will the coronavirus vaccine be like the yearly flu vaccine in that it changes every year because the virus changes every year, or is it like the measles or the polio vaccine, which can be fixed?
Right now, the answer is uncertain. There is some indication that this virus doesn’t change rapidly, so if you find it may operate in perpetuity. But scientists don’t understand how high resistance to this virus lasts, so we might want to have booster shots — not a chance annually but a booster of the ball to make the vaccine work for multiple decades.
How optimistic should we be that there’ll be a vaccine that works and that we can get our hands on by next year?
Foundations, governments, and companies are betting billions of dollars that it will be possible.
Paul Stoffels, chief scientific officer for Johnson & Johnson, says he is optimistic because of his company’s recent encounter making vaccines for other viral ailments.
“We have done it with Zika, RSV (respiratory syncytial virus), Ebola,” he states. “We all know what we do. And when we plug a new virus inside that system, we’re pretty sure we could access to a vaccine.”
That said, vaccine folks will tell you every single time you start working on a vaccine for a virus that was new; you do not know what the hurdles will be. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done before we know whether those bets will pay off.