The race to a vaccine
Pharmaceutical companies and researchers are in a race to develop a vaccine for COVID-19 as soon as possible. However, as of this writing, officials say the earliest a vaccine will be ready for public use is Spring 2021.
The first human trial to test one of these formulas, called mRNA-1273, began Monday, March 16, when volunteers had their first injections.
The COVID-19 vaccine is from biotech company Moderna, in partnership with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute. Phase 1 will test the vaccine's safety and whether it produces an immune response. Researchers will give different doses of the vaccine to 45 men and women between 18- and 55-years-old.
Volunteers will be given another injection 28 days after the first one. A later phase of testing will confirm the vaccine is effective at preventing infection. Researchers say there's still 12 to 18 months of testing between now and when it could be ready for the public.
Moderna is already preparing to scale production up to the millions. It will happen as soon as the first phase of testing confirms the vaccine is safe.
Moderna's coronavirus vaccine contains biological material called mRNA, the NIH reports. That's a genetic code that tells your cells how to make a protein. The formula shows the body how to turn the outer coat of the COVID-19 virus into the protein.
If your body can self-produce mimicked virus proteins in small amounts, it will learn to produce an immune response. And that is what will protect you if you encounter the real thing. Since the vaccine does not contain any of the actual virus, researchers say it cannot infect you.
On March 21, China started human trials for one of nine COVID-19 vaccines that they have in the works. It was one month earlier than expected. Volunteers will be under observation for the next six months.
That’s just one of many, many teams at biotech companies, research institutes, and universities in different countries around the world trying to develop a vaccine ASAP.
It's still not known whether Moderna's coronavirus vaccine—or any of the others in development—will offer full immunity. It may be more like the flu shot, which only reduces cases nationwide by up to 60%.
If you're interested in following all COVID-19 vaccines currently being developed in the U.S., there is a COVID-19 vaccine tracker created by the Regulatory Affairs Professionals Society (RAPS).
The scientific understanding of COVID-19 as well as guidelines for its prevention and treatment are constantly changing. There may be new information since this article was published. It’s important to check with sources like the CDC for the most up-to-date information.