The COVID-19 vaccine was developed so quickly because of cutting-edge approaches, funding, regulatory nimbleness, and the fact that the coronavirus was familar to scientists. These factors have been discussed below.
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1. Familiar Virus
- The fact that scientists had previously investigated a similar virus in the past helped them to quickly organize vaccine projects.
- The teams that were working for a COVID-19 vaccine had worked on vaccines for the original SARS virus in 2003.
- Previous projects had identified a component in the viruses known as the spike protein. The protein was a ripe target for a vaccine and provided scientists with a head start for developing their candidates. Previous work on SARS also highlighted stumbling blocks when designing coronavirus vaccines, which have so far been avoided.
2. Cutting-Edge Approaches
- Researchers are developing vaccines on adaptable platforms that are engineered to easily pivot from one pathogen to another. Previous strategies for building vaccines like finding the virus and making it weak are time-consuming. These new approaches needed scientists to have the genetic sequence of the virus, which would help them develop the correct code to synthesize vaccines.
- Moderna and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases already had a candidate for a Phase 1 trial about 10 weeks after the SARS-CoV-2 sequence was published by a team of Chinese scientists, The candidate was developed with mRNA, “a piece of genetic code containing the instructions for the coronavirus’ spike protein.” The vaccine takes the mRNA to cells, which decode the instructions and release the protein to give the immune system a first look at the spike and prepare it for future attacks.
- To rally companies to develop the vaccine, funding agencies, including foundations such as the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and governments have put billions into the search for vaccine.
- In addition to covering the costs for research and trials, the money helps companies to start manufacturing their vaccines.
- The US government is also making deals with companies to buy vaccines before the completion of clinical trials. A case in point is the $1.6 billion agreement between the government and Novavax that includes 100 million doses .
4. Regulatory Nimbleness
- Regulatory decisions have helped speed up clinical trials.
- “Many of these lessons were first learned during the West African Ebola crisis, when regulators embraced a new dexterity in green-lighting vaccine trials and took a more proactive approach to communicating with companies about the efficacy thresholds products needed to meet.”
- For instance, the FDA outlined that a vaccine should reduce COVID-19’s severity or prevents infections in 50% of recipients for it to be approved.
5. Out-of-the-Box Thinking
- Out-of-the-box thinking had little impact on vaccine development and roll out since scientists were already familiar with the coronavirus and knew the measures to take.
- Many researchers knew what worked and what did not. For instance, when the pandemic hit, researchers knew that if one had antibodies that recognized the spike protein, he or she was capable of stopping the virus.