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COVID-19 vaccine development: where we are at and what challenges remain

A summary of a world report published in The Lancet

On average, it takes 10 years to develop a vaccine. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many people are hoping this time it will be quicker. There has been remarkable progress made so far, but how close are we to a vaccine being ready?

This detailed report looked at the progress that has been made so far and the challenges of developing vaccines.

What is currently happening?

10 vaccines to tackle COVID-19 are already being tested in clinical trials. This means they are at the stage that they are being tested on people. Some of these trials hope to have evidence on the effectiveness of the vaccine and how safe it is by the summer of 2020. Companies that make vaccines are already producing some of them, so that if the results of the trials are positive, they are ready to roll out the vaccine quickly.  

In total, the World Health Organization lists around 100 vaccines that are in the very early stages of development. All the vaccines use different approaches to tackle the disease. We are now at the stage where some vaccines are entering stages 2 and 3 to check the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine.

What challenges remain?

Some experts are warning that the evidence we have so far leaves questions unanswered. One key concern as we move into testing the vaccines on people is the risk that ineffective vaccines could make the disease worse in some people. Another issue is that the results of trials in one group of people might not be the same in a different group. Many people are calling for elderly people to receive the vaccines first because they are more vulnerable, but if this is the only group used in a trial, we may not know whether the vaccine will work in younger people.

Once a successful vaccine is found, there will be huge demand across the world. The management and distribution of this will be complicated. Experts are advising that the vaccines should be unpatented, freely available to each country, but national, geographical and commercial factors could stand in the way.

What does the article conclude?

Many infectious disease experts argue that even 18 months for the first vaccine to be ready is a very ambitious target. There are, however, a few optimists who believe that hundreds of millions of doses of vaccine might be ready by the end of 2020.

Read the original article

Title: COVID-19 vaccine development pipeline gears up

https://www.thelancet.com/action/showPdf?pii=S0140-6736%2820%2931252-6

The New York Times offers a helpful Vaccine Tracker to keep up to date with the development of COVID-19 vaccines:

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/science/coronavirus-vaccine-tracker.html?utm_source=Nature+Briefing&utm_campaign=f3c1b9ca3d-briefing-dy-20200611&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_c9dfd39373-f3c1b9ca3d-45427350