One of the questions I get asked the most these days is when the world will be able to go back to the way things were in December before the coronavirus pandemic. My answer is always the same: when we have an almost perfect drug to treat COVID-19, or when almost every person on the planet has been vaccinated against coronavirus.
The former is unlikely to happen anytime soon. We’d need a miracle treatment that was at least 95 percent effective to stop the outbreak. Most of the drug candidates right now are nowhere near that powerful. They could save a lot of lives, but they aren’t enough to get us back to normal.
Humankind has never had a more urgent task than creating broad immunity for coronavirus. Realistically, if we’re going to return to normal, we need to develop a safe, effective vaccine. We need to make billions of doses, we need to get them out to every part of the world, and we need all of this to happen as quickly as possible.
Here’s what you need to know about the race to create a COVID-19 vaccine.
The world is creating this vaccine on a historically fast timeline.
Dr. Anthony Fauci has said he thinks it’ll take around eighteen months to develop a coronavirus vaccine.
Although eighteen months might sound like a long time, this would be the fastest scientists have created a new vaccine. Development usually takes around five years.
Once you pick a disease to target, you have to create the vaccine and test it on animals. Then you begin testing for safety and efficacy in humans.
To test for safety and efficacy, every vaccine goes through three phases of trials:
1.Phase one is the safety trial. A small group of healthy volunteers gets the vaccine candidate.
2.Once you’ve settled on a formula, you move onto phase two, which tells you how well the vaccine works in the people who are intended to get it. This time, hundreds of people get the vaccine. This cohort should include people of different ages and health statuses.
3.Then, in phase three, you give it to thousands of people. This is usually the longest phase, because it occurs in what’s called “natural disease conditions.” You introduce it to a large group of people who are likely already at the risk of infection by the target pathogen, and then wait and see if the vaccine reduces how many people get sick.
After the vaccine passes all three trial phases, you start building the factories to manufacture it, and it gets submitted to the WHO and various government agencies for approval.
It might be a bit hard to see right now, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. We’re doing the right things to get a vaccine as quickly as possible. In the meantime, I urge you to continue following the guidelines set by your local authorities. Our ability to get through this outbreak will depend on everyone doing their part to keep each other safe.