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At least 20 coronavirus vaccines are already in development, WHO says

Published Mar 22nd, 2020 11:04AM EDT
Coronavirus Update

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  • At least 20 coronavirus vaccines are already in development, as the WHO continues to work with scientists to deal with the various problems that may arise along the way.
  • It may be as long as 18 months before a vaccine is finally approved, even though human testing started in record time after the initial outbreak.
  • Vaccines will need to clear various regulatory hurdles that ensure their safety before the general population can be inoculated.
  • Visit BGR’s homepage for more stories.

With more than 300,000 registered cases since it all began and over 13,000 fatalities worldwide, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is far from being neutralized. But humanity is making tremendous progress when it comes to treating and researching the COVID-19 disease — containment is the top priority, and that’s where everyone’s social distancing efforts can help. Aside from trying new combinations of drugs that can kill the virus, scientists are also working on a vaccine that would help the people who haven’t been infected. At least 20 vaccines are in development around the world, the World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed, with some of them already approaching the human trial phase. The rollout of vaccines will take quite some time though, with the WHO saying that it may take as long as 18 months for vaccines to be approved.

“The acceleration of this process is really truly dramatic in terms of what we’re able to do, building on work that started with SARS, that started with MERS and now is being used for COVID-19,” WHO’s technical lead for the emergencies program said during a press conference on Friday, via CNBC.

WHO is working with the scientists involved in these 20 vaccine programs but warns that the vaccines need to be safe for humans, and that’s why trials are required. The only thing more dangerous than a bad virus is a “bad vaccine,” WHO’s emergency program executive director Dr. Mike Ryan said. “We have to be very, very, very careful in developing any product that we’re going to inject into potentially most of the world’s population.”

The first trails are “unprecedented in speed” according to Ryan, and they started in the US on Monday. It’s all thanks to work done in China and other countries that shared the genome of the COVID-19 virus with the rest of the world. The trials are taking place at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle, Washington, where phase 1 includes 45 males and non-pregnant females between the ages of 18 and 55. The National Institutes of Health institute and biotech company Moderna have been working on this particular vaccine.

Once a vaccine has been approved, WHO and partnering governments will have other problems to deal with, including logistical, financial, and ethical issues. “There has to be fair and equitable access to that vaccine for everybody,” Ryan said, adding that the world will be protected from coronavirus only if everybody is vaccinated. Echoing his comments was WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who said “this vaccine should not be for the haves, it should be for those who cannot afford it too.”

Meanwhile, scammers looking to steal credit cards and other personal information from unsuspecting people have been calling or texting and promising vaccine reservations. Even though as many as 20 vaccine efforts are underway, there’s no current vaccine that you can use, so avoid giving your personal information to anyone claiming to offer you a miracle COVID-19 cure.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.