When will a vaccine be available for COVID-19?

Article at a Glance:

  • At the center of the 2020 global pandemic, Coronavirus, or Covid-19, is highly contagious and spreads through small moisture particles from the nose and mouth.
  • Although highly anticipated, a public vaccine most likely won’t make a debut until 2021.
  • Vaccine development has several stages of testing before it’s approved, and it’s possible more than one vaccine will be developed to combat the virus.

The novel Corona Virus Disease 2019, or COVID-19, is the highly contagious virus at the center of the 2020 global pandemic. Understand the different types of vaccines and how they are meant to offer protection against the COVID virus. 

There are several different strategies being used in order to develop a COVID vaccine. And while there is hope that a vaccine could be available in 2020, the reality I that it will likely be 2021 before a vaccine is widely available to the general public. These vaccine strategies go through three phases of testing.  

Phase I: The trial vaccine is given to a small group of people.  

Phase II: The vaccine is given to a larger number of people. This group will be made up of people that have the characteristics of the group of people the vaccine is intended for. Some of these characteristics will include age, gender, and physical health. 

Phase III: The vaccine is given to thousands of people. They will check for the vaccine’s effectiveness at preventing the infection, and also check the safety of the vaccine. 

The following is a list of the different types of vaccine production and how they work. 

Inactivated Virus

The virus is killed using a chemical and is then used to stimulate the immune system of the person receiving the vaccine. Because the virus used in the vaccine is dead, it cannot cause infection. However, because it is stimulating the immune system, there may be some symptoms of illness as the body creates antibodies. These symptoms are less severe than the actual infection. 

Subunit Vaccine

A piece of the virus that is important for immunity is used to make the vaccine. Since only a piece of the virus is used, there are reduced risks of side effects. 

Weakened, Live Viral Vaccine

The virus is grown in a lab using different cells than the ones that make people sick. The better it gets at growing in a lab, the worse it gets at making people sick. 

Replicating Viral Vector Vaccine

Viruses that don’t cause illness in people are modified to include genetic information for the targeted virus. These modified viruses reproduce and cause the immune system to develop a defense against the added genetic material, and that prevents the actual target virus from being able to cause infection. 

Non-Replicating Viral Vector Vaccine

Same as above, except the virus can’t reproduce itself inside the vaccinated person.  

DNA Vaccine

A gene for the virus is injected into a piece of DNA, and those pieces are injected as the vaccine. 

mRNA Vaccine

The vaccine contains messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) that creates the protein associated with the target virus. These are injected and the body creates an immune response to the protein.  The two vaccines closest to being released currently are from Pfizer and Moderna, and both were developed using this method.

Each type of vaccine has pros and cons for effectiveness and production requirements. It’s possible that more than one kind of vaccine could be used effectively against COVID infection. It’s also likely that whichever vaccine is approved for use will not be 100% effective against infection, so prevention measures such as wearing a mask and handwashing should still be observed. There may also be limited amounts of vaccines available at first. Front line workers such as doctors and nurses may be likely to get the vaccine first, while healthy children may need to wait.   

Learn more about Coronavirus in our Covid-19 Series:

Part 1: How Does Covid-19 spread?
Part 2: How Can I Prevent Contracting Coronavirus?
Part 3: What Are Typical Symptoms of Coronavirus?
Part 4: How Likely Is My Family To Contract COVID-19, and How Sick Would We Get?
Part 5: Getting Tested for Coronavirus

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