Why Coronavirus Vaccine Still Months Out?

February 29, 2020

As of January 27, the coronavirus that started in Wuhan has sickened more than 4,000 people and killed at least 100 people in China. Eight confirmed cases were reported in Thailand and Hong Kong, and five people were diagnosed with the disease in the United States. It is hoped that the vaccine will slow the spread of the disease.

Is a vaccine against coronavirus under development?
Is research underway for this particular strain? How do scientists know when to research for a coronavirus vaccine? What does this work involve? When can I really get vaccinated? Can humans be protected from these diseases?

Several organizations, including the National Institutes of Health, have begun developing vaccines for this new coronavirus strain, known to scientists as 2019-nCoV.

Scientists have just begun work, but their vaccine development strategy will benefit from work on closely related viruses such as SARS and MERS, as well as advances in vaccine technologies such as nucleic acid technology, which are DNA- and RNA-based vaccines available in Vaccine antigens are produced in your own body.

Are you studying this particular response?
No, but research on other closely related coronaviruses (ie, MERS and SARS) that cause serious human disease is still ongoing. Scientists are not worried about this particular strain because we don’t know if it exists and may cause human disease before it causes the disease to break out.

How do scientists know when to study a coronavirus vaccine?
Once the virus begins to infect humans, research into vaccines for severe coronavirus has begun.

Considering that this is the third major outbreak of our new coronavirus in the past two decades, and given the severity of the diseases caused by these viruses, we should consider investing in the development of a vaccine virus that can prevent these diseases widely.

What does this work involve and when will it actually be vaccinated?
This work involves designing vaccine constructs, such as producing the correct target antigens, viral proteins targeted by the immune system, and then testing them in animal models to prove that they are protective and safe.

Once safety and effectiveness are established, vaccines can enter clinical trials in humans. If the vaccine induces the expected immune response and protection and is found to be safe, it can be produced in bulk for vaccination of the population.

Currently, we lack virus isolates or virus samples to test vaccines. We also lack antibodies to ensure that the vaccine is in good condition. We need viruses to test whether the vaccine-induced immune response works. In addition, we need to determine which animals can test the vaccine. This may include mice and non-human primates.

Vaccine development can take months.

Can humans be protected from these diseases?
We expect that these types of outbreaks will occur at irregular intervals in the foreseeable future.

To prevent large-scale outbreaks and pandemics, we need to improve surveillance of humans and animals around the world and invest in risk assessments so that scientists can assess the potential threat to human health of detected viruses.

We believe that global action is needed to invest in novel vaccine approaches, and that new measures such as current coronaviruses and viruses similar to Zika, Ebola or influenza can be taken quickly. Currently, the response to emerging pathogens is mostly reactive, which means they begin after the outbreak.