- The coronavirus pandemic reached a grim milestone this week, surpassing over a million confirmed cases and reaching a death toll of 80,000 worldwide.
Hopes of a vaccine that could stop the disease have been raised since Covid-19 took hold in China in late December. The UK chief medical adviser, Professor Chris Whitty, has said that a vaccine is £one way out of this … and we all hope that will happen as quickly as possible.”
scientists say they have developed a potential coronavirus vaccine that produces antibodies capable of fighting the virus and will apply for ‘investigational new drug’ approval from the US Food and Drug Administration.
The team are far from alone: the World Health Organisation says there are at least 20 coronavirus vaccines are in developmental stages around the world, with the first human trials already beginning in Seattle, led by Boston-based biotech firm Moderna. The trial is backed by the national institutes of health (NIH) and Kaiser Permanente Washington Research Institute.
Anthony Fauci, director of the national institute of allergy and infectious diseases in the US and one of Donald Trump’s top health officials, said the process of developing a vaccine “is going to take a year, year-and-a-half at least”.
He dismissed claims by the US president that a vaccine could be produced within “weeks”, saying: “I don’t want to overpromise.”
Before any vaccine can be approved for general use, they must undergo clinical trials which are usually split into three phases. The phases begin with a small pool of healthy volunteers to test the vaccine for safety and monitor it for adverse effects. Next, a larger pool of several hundred people are tested to monitor how effective the vaccine is, and lastly, the same process is repeated in a pool of several thousand people.
Dr Vineet Menachery, a virologist at the University of Texas Medical Branch, told The Independent that the lack of mutation was “good news” because “we could reasonably argue that vaccines would work against most of the strains out there”.
Britain is the largest contributor to an international bid to find a coronavirus vaccine, committing a total of £250m to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI).
The funding was announced after Boris Johnson took part in a video conference of the G20 group, where leaders of the world’s largest economies pledged to deliver a “transparent, robust, coordinated, large-scale and science-based global response in the spirit of solidarity”.