Labs are racing to make a COVID-19 vaccine in record time

Graphic by Cassandra Tweed

With the main focus on making a vaccine as soon as possible, health concerns are rising

As scientists are still discovering new facts about COVID-19, labs across the world are now scrambling to create a vaccine. Even though some claim a vaccine can be done in a matter of months, there are concerns about whether the rush will create safety violations.

The White House Task Force, which was initially supposed to be disassembled by Memorial day, has now shifted the focus on creating a vaccine as reported by CNN. “Operation Warp Seed” is the name of the project that scientists working with the White House Task Force are currently working on as it is reported that the scientists have narrowed down their focus on 14 vaccines for development.

For the most part, it is still unclear when a vaccine could be ready, as scientists remain split on how quickly a vaccine can be developed. One scientist, a viral immunologist at the Vaccine Research Center, Kizzmekia Corbett, told CNN that a vaccine could be ready for emergency use authorization by this fall and available to the U.S. public next spring.

On the other hand, Paul Offit, the director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania, told Business Insider that an average time to make a vaccine can take 20 years to develop starting from animal models, small scale studies and then to clinical trials. 

The usual Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval process has also been bypassed by some labs as human trials have already taken place. Within these human challenge trials, healthy volunteers consent to receiving a vaccine and are then exposed to the virus which can pose ethical challenges as Arthur Caplan, the director of New York University’s Division of Medical Ethics, told Business Insider.

Even when a vaccine is made, questions arise of who they will be available to first. Caplan told Business Insider that Health care workers, the elderly and the immunocompromised can receive the vaccine first, but it can also be available on a first-come-first-serve basis depending on the recommendations made by the Centers for Disease Control.

As scientists continue to test possible vaccines, there are also questions about the antibody tests available on the market and whether they’re accurate.

According to CNN, 12 antibody tests were studied during a COVID-19 Testing Project in California at the end of April, but four tests had higher rates of giving false-positive results. The researchers conducting this test pointed out that one of the reasons why the tests could be faulty is because of the relaxed FDA requirements.

Currently, scientists are still testing whether antibodies create complete immunity to COVID-19 by giving plasma to sick patients from people who have recovered.

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