If it seems like we’re stuck in a holding pattern, waiting for one or more vaccines to bring about an end to thepandemic, it’s because we are. Experts agree that without a vaccine, the only ways to contain the virus are the things we’re already doing: , , testing . But those measures, while effective if strictly adhered to, are and charged at worst — not to mention, people seem to have a hard time following them.
That’s why the easing of lockdown restrictions almost always leads to a, which prompts government leaders to bring back lockdowns. The only thing expected to break that cycle is a vaccine. So, how much longer do we have to wait, and where are we in the vaccine development process now?
If you live in the industrialized world,, don’t make any major plans for the next year or two. “For the rich world, we should largely be able to end this thing by the end of 2021, and for the world at large by the end of 2022,” he told Wired.
Below, we survey the current landscape for a developing coronavirus vaccine. This article updates frequently and is intended to be a general overview, not a source of medical advice. If you’re seeking more information about coronavirus testing, here’s how to find a testing site near you, how to know if you qualify for a test and how to get an at-home coronavirus test.
Important COVID-19 vaccine news
COVID vaccine development is getting faster
Several acceleration efforts are currently underway, like the White House’s Operation Warp Speed, which is meant to cut through regulatory red tape to speed up vaccine development and have hundreds of millions of vaccine doses ready to distribute as soon as they receive FDA approval.
Vaccines typically take about 10 to 15 years to develop and approve, through four phases that include human trials. But with Operation Warp Speed, rather than submitting all sections of the application after all four phases are done, approved vaccine projects can submit data to the FDA bit by bit.
Meanwhile, the program is also financially backing efforts to start manufacturing doses while clinical trials are still ongoing. That means if and when those vaccines do get approved, there will already be a store of doses ready to distribute nationally. “I would hope that by the time we get well into the second half of 2021 that the companies will have delivered the hundreds of millions of doses they have promised,” Fauci told Forbes in August.
Promising coronavirus vaccines from UK, US, China
Here’s a quick look at some of the frontrunners in the race to find a vaccine for COVID-19, including where the vaccines are being developed, where they are with testing them and when scientists think they might be ready for widespread distribution, if known.
Oxford University/AstraZeneca (UK): Currently testing its vaccine on 100,000 human volunteers in at least three countries. Lead researcher Dr. Sarah Gilbert has said they’re aiming for a fall 2020 release.
Moderna (US): An apparent scuffle with government regulators delayed large-scale human testing, but Moderna’s CEO has told Barron’s he still expects the company will know by Thanksgiving if the vaccine is safe and effective and should be able to distribute it in early 2021 if it is.
Pfizer (US): Although its four COVID-19 vaccine candidates are still in early-stage human trials, two of them have been fast-tracked by the FDA. Pfizer’s chief business officer told the US Congress the company may be ready to apply for FDA approval by October.
SinoVac (China): Currently testing its vaccine on about 10,000 human volunteers in China and about 9,000 in Brazil and is set to begin testing on about 1,900 test subjects in Indonesia soon. CEO of BioPharma, SinoVac’s Indonesian partner, has said he expects the vaccine to be ready by early 2021.
SinoPharm (China): Currently testing about 15,000 volunteers in the Middle East in a trial the state-owned company expects to last three to six months. SinoPharm recently built a second facility to manufacture the vaccine, doubling its capacity to about 200 million doses per year.
CanSino Biologics (China): Set to begin large-scale human trials this summer, CanSino’s vaccine has already been approved for the Chinese military.
Will there be just one vaccine for everyone?
We probably won’t know until next year, but Fauci has suggested it might require several different vaccines made and distributed by different labs to bring an end to the pandemic, in a paper published May 11 in the journal Science.
What happens if we never find a coronavirus vaccine?
Coronaviruses are a large class of viruses and so far there are no vaccines for any of them. While there are promising early results, there’s no guarantee of a vaccine by 2021. Statistically, only about 6% of vaccine candidates ever make it through to market, according to a Reuters special report.
Early evidence suggests that the coronavirus doesn’t appear to mutate as quickly or often as the flu, and it’s thought that the virus has not yet mutated significantly enough to disrupt vaccine development — although our knowledge could change.
The longer we go without a vaccine, the more likely focus will shift toward treatments, such as the, which has reportedly shown promising results, and , a steroid that doctors say increases survival rates among the most serious cases. With effective therapeutic treatments, many viruses that used to be fatal are no longer death sentences. Patients with HIV, for example, can now expect to enjoy the same life expectancy as non-HIV-positive individuals, thanks to tremendous advances in treatment.
Eventually, the global population may reach the 60% to 70% rate required forto protect those who aren’t immune, which is, ultimately, the goal of a vaccine.