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October 23, 2020

COVID-19: Are we any closer to a vaccine? 

Posted: Friday, October 23, 2020. 10:57 am CST.

By Aaron Humes:  Belize and other countries around the world are preparing for the advent of a coronavirus vaccine, with some closing in on faster-than-ever trial approval. 

On Monday, according to Boston.com, Stéphane Bancel, the CEO of Cambridge-based biotech company Moderna, told the Wall Street Journal that the US government could approve its vaccine for emergency use in December, depending on positive results from its ongoing clinical trial by the end of November, otherwise its wait till next year. 

Moderna began its massive U.S. study with 30,000 participants in July. At the start of this month, the CEO said he doesn’t think the vaccine will be widely available until next spring

Moderna’s vaccine is one of only a handful of projects worldwide that have reached Phase 3 trials, according to the New York Times’ coronavirus vaccine tracker. Some vaccines produced in Russia and China have already been approved for early or limited use in their respective nations, but none have completed Phase 3 trials yet. 

Of the other major competitors stateside, the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is the furthest along. Last week, Pfizer CEO Dr. Albert Bourla said the company won’t seek authorization until mid-November at the earliest. The AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson trials are both paused in the U.S. to investigate complications in individual volunteers. 

The BBC explains meanwhile that a vaccine would protect those most vulnerable to COVID-19 by training the immune system to fight the virus and prevent sickness. 

About 240 vaccines are in early development, with 40 in clinical trials and nine already in the final stage of testing on thousands of people. 

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 widely 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. 

But scientists are optimistic that, if trials are successful, then a small number of people – such as healthcare workers – may be vaccinated before the end of this year. 


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