Vaccine for SARS still in development – What this means for the new coronavirus

Created by: Danielle Orr and Paola Floro.

Several research facilities are working alongside international organizations and governments in the global effort to make a vaccine to curb the Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV). The virus has killed 427 people and infected more than 20,000 worldwide to date.

The Coalition of Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) announced a partnership on Monday to develop a vaccination against the novel Coronavirus.

Chief medical officer of GSK Thomas Breuer provided a timeline of 12 to 18 months before the product can be certified as safe for public use. While other organizations and medical experts predict similar timelines for a Novel Coronavirus vaccine, there is no definitive date for when the immunization will be readily available to the public.

The 2002 SARS outbreak puts into perspective just how long making a vaccine could take. The SARS outbreak occurred about 18 years ago, and yet the vaccine for that virus is still in development. The World Health Organization (WHO) acknowledged in 2003 after the outbreak had waned that a vaccine for SARS wouldn’t be ready if the epidemic were to reoccur within that year. There are still no approved vaccines for viruses like SARS and MERS to this day. This calls into question the likelihood of having a vaccine for a genetically similar virus such as the Novel Coronavirus on the market before the year closes.

There are specific regulatory procedures in global vaccine development that can take up to 10 or more years.



Dr. Zhou Xing, research professor at McMaster University in Immunology and Infectious Diseases, stresses that a lengthy and thorough development and testing period is standard.

“It depends on how much resources are available,” he said.

“In the case of the new coronavirus outbreak, minimum one year.”

Dr. Xing says the amount of support for the quick development of the Novel Coronavirus vaccine, much like how it played out for the Ebola vaccine, could also expedite what is normally known to be a long process.

“The Ebola immunization process was fast-tracked,” He said.

“If clinical results are available, then the regulatory organization like WHO or Health Canada can approve target immunization which would save some time.”

The balance is in saving the critical time needed to manage the potential for the outbreak without compromising the quality of the vaccine itself.

Click below to listen to an interview on the vaccination process and the Novel Coronavirus with Dr. Zhou Xing.

You can also click here to listen to the interview.

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Written by
Paola Patrizia Floro

Paola Floro is a graduate of the Journalism-New Media Program at Sheridan College.She holds an Honours Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and Latin American Studies from the University of Toronto.

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