Scientists eagerly eye an April 2020 release date for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine, after a break-neck pace to get the drug ready. The vaccine, however, comes with some uncertainties.
Chinese scientists, tasked with the major challenge to first prepare the serum, are hopeful the first vaccines could be in “emergency use” next month.
Despite underlying challenges, and weeks after its scientists released the sequence of the coronavirus, China is moving full steam ahead to develop COVID-19 vaccines.
“According to our estimates, we are hopeful that in April some of the vaccines will enter clinical research or be of use in emergency situations,” said Zheng Zhongwei, director of the National Health Commission’s Science and Technology Development Center.
Now that vaccines are over the development stage, the next hurdle to pass is clinical human trials – with testing alone for its safety and efficacy taking between 12 to 18 months, or more, officials say.
Developing vaccines that are safe and effective takes time, investment, and good science. For a coronavirus like the one that causes COVID-19, the process comes with even more challenges.
Under Chinese law, vaccines developed for major public health emergencies can be deployed for urgent use under specified conditions—provided the National Medical Products Administration considers the benefits of the treatment outweigh the risks.
While dozens of China’s vaccine research institutions are being involved, it is not clear how many different types of vaccines are being developed or on under what kind of condition the vaccine could be used on humans.
What researchers have agreed on, however, is the world has a long way to go in the race to find a vaccine.
The COVID-19 outbreak, which traces its origins in China’s Hubei Province in late 2019, has since been confirmed in over 111,350 cases worldwide and killed upwards of 3,600 people.