Leading health experts have warned scientists may not be able to develop a vaccine against the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) at all and pointed that it has happened before in case of HIV and dengue among others, a report has said.
More than 100 vaccines are currently under pre-clinical trials and a couple of those have entered the human trial stage—at Oxford University in England made from a chimpanzee virus and in the US for a different vaccine produced by Moderna.
“There are some viruses that we still do not have vaccines against,” Dr David Nabarro, a professor of global health at Imperial College London, was quoted as saying by CNN on Sunday.
“We can’t make an absolute assumption that a vaccine will appear at all, or if it does appear, whether it will pass all the tests of efficacy and safety,” Nabarro, who also serves as a special envoy to the World Health Organization (WHO) on Covid-19, said.
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Anthony Fauci is among those who say a vaccine will come along in a year to 18 months, while others have said it may take longer than that.
Most experts are confident that a Covid-19 vaccine will eventually be developed because unlike previous diseases like HIV and malaria, the coronavirus does not mutate rapidly.
Nabarro, however, pointed out the process of developing a vaccine is slow and painful.
“You have high hopes, and then your hopes are dashed. We’re dealing with biological systems, we’re not dealing with mechanical systems. It really depends so much on how the body reacts,” Nabarro said.
“We’ve never accelerated a vaccine in a year to 18 months. It doesn’t mean it’s impossible, but it will be quite a heroic achievement. We need plan A, and a plan B,” Dr Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, told CNN.
A vaccine candidate for Covid-19 has been identified by researchers at the Oxford Vaccine Group and Oxford’s Jenner Institute. The potential upcoming vaccine, ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, is based on an adenovirus vaccine vector and the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein.
According to WHO, from a total of 102 candidate vaccines in the race, eight leading vaccines are in the human testing phase.
A number of treatments are being tested for Covid-19 and scientists are also looking at experimental anti-Ebola drug remdesivir and blood plasma treatments are also being explored. Experts have said hydroxychloroquine, touted as a potential “game-changer” by US President Donald Trump, has been found not to work on very sick patients.
Till then, Nabarro said preparing ourselves will be an option till a vaccine against Covid-19 is developed.
“It’s absolutely essential that all societies everywhere get themselves into a position where they are able to defend against the coronavirus as a constant threat and to be able to go about social life and economic activity with the virus in our midst,” Nabarro said while speaking to CNN.