WASHINGTON — Protecting people from COVID-19 is the top priority for researchers and medical experts around the world.
Scientists at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAD) and their partners have developed a vaccine that they hope could be the answer to stopping the spread of COVID-19.
It’s now being tested in Seattle.
“Thus far, things look good,” NIAD director Dr. Anthony Fauci said.
Fauci said a COVID-19 vaccine could be ready within 12-18 months.
The World Health Organization said there are three clinical trials for vaccine underway and more than 70 others in development.
Another vaccine in clinical trial was developed by INOVIO Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
“The Phase 1 study of INO-4800 will enroll up to 40 healthy adult volunteers in Philadelphia, Pa., and Kansas City, Mo.,” INOVIO said in a statement on April 6 when the clinical trial was announced publicly.
“At this point, how confident are you that we will see a successful vaccine developed for COVID-19 within that 12-18 month period?” Washington Bureau reporter Samantha Manning asked Fauci.
“There is never a guarantee that a vaccine will work,” Fauci said. “Our experience throughout decades of vaccinology tell you that the parameters thus far are suggesting some cautious optimism, but you don’t know until you do it.”
Vaccinologists around the world are working on it.
“I was working on multiple other vaccines when this hit,” Dr. James Campbell, Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, said. “Myself and many other people are focusing on this as our top priority.”
Campbell specializes in vaccine research.
He explained there are three phases before a vaccine in a clinical trial approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration can be licensed and given out to the public.
In phase one, there is testing on a small group, roughly 20 to 100 people. This phase mainly looks at safety.
Phase two then involves testing on several hundred people and it looks at the immune response more in depth.
Finally, phase three then moves on to testing thousands of people and it looks at any adverse effects and confirms if the vaccine is effective.
“If you show safety, you show immune responses in the blood and you show protection, all of those together, then the Food and Drug Administration takes all of that data and says, 'OK, now you can license the vaccine and it can be sold on the market,’” Campbell said.
In this case, there are challenges because there is still so much unknown about COVID-19.
“We’ve known about this virus for a few months, so it isn’t as if we have a lot of background,” Fauci said.
“Do we know what the vaccine might look like for the average person? Would it be a one-time shot? Would it be something like the flu shot where we have to get it every year?” Manning asked Fauci.
“Well, first of all, you want to see if it works,” Fauci said. “It’ll probably be a prime and a boost.”
Even with the uncertainty of a virus so unfamiliar, scientists are not giving up.
They’re focusing their determination on protecting the public with a successful vaccine.
“I am very hopeful and actually expecting that we will,” Campbell said. “People are putting a lot of energy into this."
"What you do is that you develop a vaccine that you believe and hope would induce the kind of response that would ultimately be protected so that when a person gets exposed, they will be protected.”
Fauci said most vaccines take several years to develop and in some cases can be up to a decade.
In this case, researchers expect the process to be under an expedited timeline of 12-18 months.