A vaccine would normally take years, if not decades, to develop. Researchers hope to achieve the same amount of work in only a few months.
Most experts think a vaccine is likely to become available by mid-2021, about 12-18 months after the new virus, known officially as Sars-CoV-2, first emerged.
That would be a huge scientific feat and there are no guarantees it will work.
Multiple research groups have designed potential Coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccines, however, there is much more work to do.
Trials need to show the vaccine is safe. It would not be useful if it caused more problems than the disease.
Clinical trials will also need to show the vaccine provokes an immune response which would protect people from getting sick
Following pre-clinical research, the vaccine is tested in a very small group of people – sometimes as few as half a dozen – in what is called a ‘Phase I’ clinical study. This helps to rule out major safety problems and also helps doctors to work out the right dose for the next step in the testing process.
Phase II trials involve giving the vaccine to a larger number of people (often 100 or 200 but sometimes in the 1,000s). At this point, researchers want to see whether the vaccine gives a consistent immune response and they watch for any side effects that might occur.
A way of producing the vaccine on a huge scale must be developed for the billions of potential doses
Medicines regulators must approve it before it can be given
Finally there will be the huge logistical challenge of actually inoculating most of the world’s population
Four coronaviruses already circulate in human beings. They cause common cold symptoms and we don’t have vaccines for any of them.