Bill Gates has been pushing forward efforts on a COVID-19 vaccine, and he has said he expects one in 18 months. Much is involved in making a vaccine, and having one will enable the world to get back to a sense of normalcy like what we felt before the coronavirus broke out.
Bill Gates: 9 to 24 months to a COVID-19 vaccine
In a post for the World Economic Forum, Bill Gates explained the timeline for developing a COVID-19 vaccine. Predictions indicate that it could take nine months to two years to come up with a vaccine for the coronavirus. Once it has been developed, manufacturers will have to produce more than 7 million doses for the general population.
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Gates said one of the questions he hears the most now is when will the world get back to the way it was before the pandemic. He said a vaccine is essential because in order for a coronavirus treatment to allow the world to get back to normal, it would have to be at least 95% effective to stop the outbreak.
Bill Gates also said the world is creating the COVID-19 vaccine on a historically fast timeline. If researchers do manage to develop one in only 18 months like Gates and the top U.S. infectious disease doctor, Dr. Anthony Fauci, believe, then it would be a new record in vaccine development.
The development process
Gates said it usually takes about five years to develop a vaccine. After choosing a disease to target and then developing a vaccine, it must be tested on animals. After it has been deemed safe for animals, it can then move on to human trials to test safety and efficacy. Safety and efficacy testing goes through three phases.
The first phase is the safety trial. A small number of health volunteers receive the vaccine in various doses to determine the strongest immune response at the lowest effective dose without serious side effects.
The second phase determines how well the vaccine will work in those who will receive it. The vaccine is given to hundreds of people covering a variety of ages and health conditions in phase two.
The third phase involves giving the vaccine to thousands of people. It's the longest of the three phases because it occurs in "natural disease conditions." The people who receive the vaccine are at risk of infection by the disease. For this phase, researchers must wait and see whether the vaccine reduces the number of people at risk from getting the disease.
After all three phases of the trial, the vaccine must enter production and be submitted to the World Health Organization and government agencies for approval. Because of the crisis, researchers are compressing the vaccine development timeline. For example, usually the three phases are done linearly, but some are being done concurrently in order to speed up the process.
Bill Gates on furthering the COVID-19 vaccine development
As of April 9, there were 115 vaccine candidates in development. Bill Gates believes eight to 10 of those COVID-19 vaccine candidates look especially promising, although they are watching all of them to make sure they don't miss any that have particularly positive characteristics.
He explained that most vaccines are live or inactivated vaccines. Live vaccines are more prone to side effects than inactivated ones because they contain live pathogens, but both types of vaccines work to teach the body how to fight off a disease without ever becoming sick. There are some live and inactivated COVID-19 vaccines in development, but they are time-consuming to make.
Bill Gates is most expected about the DNA and RNA COVID-19 vaccine candidates that are in development. If one of them works out, they will be able to get the vaccines out to the world much faster than if a live or inactivated vaccine is used.
He says it will go out to seven billion people, to everyone alive.
You can learn more about the vaccine development process by watching this YouTube video: