As the coronavirus continues to plague a weary world with more than 3.2 million cases and an excess of 229,000 deaths as of Thursday, scientists are working feverishly to find a vaccine.
At the beginning of April, more than 60 potential vaccines were being evaluated, according to the World Health Organization. Before being approved, a vaccine has to be tested in animals, and then go through three trial evaluations in humans.
Experts say despite Herculean efforts, a vaccine is still predicted to be 12 to 18 months away, or more.
Here’s a look at some of the countries involved in the search for a COVID-19 vaccine.
In a research facility in Saskatoon that is part of the University of Saskatchewan, 200 ferrets are lined up as guinea pigs. They are at the center of Canadian hopes for a vaccine because their respiratory systems are similar to humans.
Dr. Volker Gerdts and his team have daily conference calls to share developments with 50 international groups involved in vaccine research.
Gerdts exposed a group of healthy ferrets to the virus and a few weeks later they received a booster shot. He expects to know in May if the ferrets are protected from COVID-19 and that could lead to a human vaccine.
Thirty-two scientists are working to create an antigen designed to induce an immune response to the virus as the first step forward.
Dr. Mert Doskaya is involved in the research being conducted jointly by the Drug Development and Pharmacokinetic Research Application Center at Izmir’s Ege University and the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey.
He said the team hopes to apply the vaccine to animals within four months to determine its effectiveness.
The country where the virus was first detected is also one of the first to approve a vaccine for testing with humans March 16 in Beijing. The trials began with CanSino Bio, a Hong Kong firm under the umbrella of the Academy of Military Medical Sciences. It was developed in concert with the Beijing Institute of Biotechnology. Earlier this month it indicated phase two of the trials would soon be underway.
The first person in clinical trials received a potential vaccine March 16, according to drug company Moderna. Scientists are working on the sequence of the virus, which involves collecting samples from patients to try to develop a vaccine.
Another company, Inovio Pharmaceuticals, announced this week it administered its vaccine to 40 healthy volunteers.
Inovio said it hopes to deliver 1 million doses of a vaccine for study and potential emergency use.
Scientists from German company BioNTech and US pharmaceutical colossus Pfizer put their heads together to try to find a vaccine and have already begun human trials.
BioNTech said Wednesday that 200 healthy volunteers between the ages of 18 and 55 will receive the vaccine. The testing could begin as early as next week in the US, Pfizer said, depending on regulatory approval.
Oxford University scientists are engaging in a three-part clinical trial that will eventually involve 6,000 volunteers.
Human trials began last week at Oxford and the first phase includes 510 volunteers between the ages of 18 and 55.
A weak common cold virus in chimpanzees was used to produce a vaccine called ChAdOxl.
Added to that was genetics of spike proteins. The latter is used by the virus to bond to human cells, so the hope is the vaccine will also bond to the cells, and that would allow the human body to recognize the virus and develop immunity.
-Speed is slow in science
While the 12- to 18-month period may seem to be a lengthy time to develop a vaccine, in science it is like running at the speed of a cheetah.
The mumps vaccine in 1967 took four years to be introduced and researchers say it is considered the fastest ever produced.
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