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Coronavirus vaccine: When will we have one?


The WHO reports that there are currently 142 potential vaccines in what is known as the “preclinical evaluation” phase. These are vaccines that are basically still being tested in a lab, with scientists iterating and testing over and over on animals or in test tubes.

It’s possible that a future global vaccine lives among those 142 – but at this point it seems more likely that the vaccine will come from one of the 24 that have begun to be tested on actual humans. Of those 24, 4 have reached Phase III which is the most rigorous test phase.

To get to Phase III you pretty much need to demonstrate that your potential vaccine is safe, that it has no serious side-effects, and that it is showing signs of producing the kind of response that can fight the virus or disease. .

Phase III takes this a step further, testing on thousands of people to get more detailed data on efficacy (does this vaccine work in a lab under optimal conditions) and effectiveness (does this vaccine work in slightly sub-optimal conditions, like the real world). Safety is obviously tested too but in a more specific way – looking for adverse effects for people with different underlying health conditions, ages etc.


This week Oxford University announced the results of their combined Phase I and II trial for their vaccine ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 (what a name). The “Chad” vaccine triggered an immune response (antibodies and T-cells) and it appeared safe. The UK has already ordered 100 million doses of the vaccine.

In China, there are 3 vaccines in a Phase III trial, and the US company Moderna, which has been granted $483m by the US government, is also about to start its Phase III trial in the next week or so.

Considering vaccines usually take about 10 years to develop, test and produce, if the world manages to get one out to people by mid-2021 – which is the timeline most experts think we’re on – it’ll be a phenomenal achievement. Coronavirus vaccine: When will we have one?


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