How close is a coronavirus vaccine?

The oft-cited 12-to-18 month timeline to an effective vaccine is probably still on track, though it will require everything going right.

May 14, 2020 and
Category: Fact-Checking

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Americans are counting on a safe and effective vaccine against the novel coronavirus. Two months into the pandemic, is the U.S. and the world any closer to one?

The short answer is yes, experts say. But creating an effective vaccine will still require a lot to go right.

There are more than 100 vaccine projects underway worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. At least eight of them have moved to the early clinical trial phase. Four of these vaccines were created in China, one in the U.K, one in the European Union, and two in the United States. Others could move to clinical trials in the coming months.

Having so many potential vaccines in the testing phase is impressive, experts say, considering the short time scientists have known about the novel coronavirus.

“Multiple groups from government, industry, and academia have come together to forge partnerships that advance candidate vaccines,” said Matthew B. Laurens, an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine’s Center for Vaccine Development and Global Health. “The shift from other research activities to this urgent public health crisis is both encouraging and exactly what needs to happen.”

In early April, Kathleen M. Neuzil, director of the Center for Vaccine Development and Global Health at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, told PolitiFact that if all went well, there might be five or six vaccines in trials within six months. Five weeks later, there are already more than that undergoing trials.

Officials including Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, have remained consistent in their estimation of the timeline for creating a workable vaccine: 12 to 18 months. That’s a much shorter time frame than for previous vaccines, which have taken between four years and several decades. But given the intense pressure of the coronavirus pandemic, standard development and production models are being telescoped.

Here’s the state of play on coronavirus vaccine research, and how developments in the past two months have changed the outlook.

Click here to read more.

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Alex Mahadevan is a senior multimedia reporter at MediaWise. He can be reached at amahadevan@poynter.org or on Twitter at @AlexMahadevan. Follow MediaWise on TikTok.