The vaccines in development for the novel coronavirus are on track and could be ready for emergency and clinical research as early as next month, according to Chinese health officials.
The director of the National Health Commission’s Science and Technology Development Centre in Beijing, Zheng Zhongwei, said on March 6 that five approaches to vaccines are being developed and are making progress.
Over 112,000 people have been infected with the novel coronavirus that started in Wuhan, a city in central China late last year, with around 4,000 succumbing to the infection.
The South China Morning Post (SCMP) quotes Dr Zheng as saying, “Our different approaches are steadily advancing and [we are] following national laws and regulations [in our development]. According to our estimates, we are hopeful that in April some of the vaccines will enter clinical research or they would be of use in emergency situations.”
China’s law allows vaccines that are developed specifically to address public health emergencies to be used for urgent purposes under particular conditions, as long as the National Medical Products Administration deems that the advantages the vaccine may bring are weightier than their risks.
But Dr Zheng did issue a note of caution, saying scientists anticipate difficulties in the course of research, and that they are still learning more about the coronavirus.
Nevertheless, research has progressed so much that applications will be filed in April for moving on to clinical trials for the vaccine, according to a central government official who is a member of the team that oversees the containment of the virus outbreak in Hubei, Ding Xiangyang.
Dr Zheng said that dozens of vaccine research institutions are working on the different approaches to the vaccine. The process of developing vaccines is normally a time-consuming one. Health authorities have said that testing alone for the efficiency and safety for a vaccine for the novel coronavirus could take as much as one and a half years, or even more.
In the United States, Moderna, a biotech company based in Massachusetts, sent a sample vaccine to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases for the novel coronavirus in February, so that human testing can begin.
Another laboratory at the University of Queensland, in Brisbane, Australia, will also begin human clinical trials for a possible vaccine within the next few months.
Scientists around the world have been working at breakneck pace for better testing methods, vaccines and treatments.
But according to the longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Anthony Fauci, approval for an effective vaccine may take at least one year.
He told President Donald Trump at a briefing, “A vaccine that you make and start testing in a year is not a vaccine that’s deployable. He said it would take “a year to a year and a half, no matter how fast you go,” to develop a deployable vaccine. —/TISG
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