We are all hopeful that a COVID-19 vaccine will come soon so the death and economic construction can stop. Unfortunately, vaccines and other drugs have a lengthy process of clinical trials, development, and testing, and even conducting development and testing simultaneously is only going to shorten that process so much. The average amount of time it takes for a new drug to reach the market is 12 years. The fastest vaccine ever built from scratch took four years, and the H1N1 vaccine took just 6 months because there was existing knowledge of influenza vaccines. When can we realistically expect a COVID-19 vaccine?
Vaccines have to be proven safe and effective before they are approved for use in the general public. While we do have plenty of knowledge about how vaccines work, making them work for specific illnesses, mainly viruses, is another issue altogether. Currently, vaccines are available for just 18 diseases.
Fortunately we do have a framework for a COVID-19 vaccine thanks to all the tireless research that has been done on a similar disease, SARS-1. A vaccine for H1N1, a strain of flu that crossed over to humans from swine, took just 6 months because of existing knowledge of influenza vaccines. It is entirely possible that SARS-1 research can also help shorten the timespan of a COVID-19 vaccine.
There’s just one catch – clinical trials need volunteer participants. The different stages of vaccine and drug trials require different numbers of participants – anywhere from 20-100 in the first phase to 1000-5000 in the last phase. Without both a high number of volunteers and a wide variety of genders and ethnicities the vaccine will take longer to make it to that final approval.
Everyone benefits from clinical trials but few people give them any thought. Learn more about how clinical trials work and the future of a COVID-19 vaccine from the infographic below.
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Last Updated on February 3, 2021.