Scientists: There will be no effective COVID-19 vaccine before next summer

University of Tartu centennial ball at the Estonian National Museum (ERM). Nov. 30, 2019.
University of Tartu centennial ball at the Estonian National Museum (ERM). Nov. 30, 2019. Source: Karli Saul

While in many parts of the world coronavirus vaccine studies have started, this doesn't mean that a vaccine is going to be ready by the end of this year or make it to the market by then.

In clinical trials, there are three stages, and during stage three, a global analysis is carried out, where the vaccine under development is tested on tens of thousands of people. Toivo Maimets, professor of cell biology at the University of Tartu, says that as of last week, almost 60 clinical trials are underway to develop the new coronavirus vaccine.

"In the third stage, from the 45 different vaccine candidates, we have six that have entered within a couple of weeks."

According to Irja Lutsar, professor of virology at the University of Tartu and head of the government's scientific council set up in the aftermath of the pandemic, a large number of vaccine trials began in different parts of the world last week.

"They have planned to take 30,000 patients. I also think that so far as they have published, many vaccines are given in two doses. So first one dose and then the other after a month. After that, the patients are monitored. The first results of the studies should be accessible in about three to four months."

However, publishing the results of the study in a few months doesn't mean that the vaccine will be ready and in stores then. Maimets said that creating a vaccine with proper testing takes about 10 years, the fastest that has been created so far took four years.

"Of course, today, we want to get the results much faster. And we have hope that we can make it earlier, but I wouldn't say that it will happen this year, since the third clinical testing phase is very important. We have to be sure that we are not causing damage instead of benefits," he commented.

Lutsar also said that people shouldn't hold the illusion that in December, the vaccine will cure all Estonian people and the coronavirus will have gone.

"Creating a very effective vaccine takes a long time. The Germans said that realistically, the vaccine could be ready in 2021."

Both Maimets and Lutsar said that a vaccine won't be created in Estonia itself, because resources here are limited.

"Developing a vaccine doesn't cost millions of dollars, but rather hundreds of millions of dollars. Estonian scientists know quite a bit, and can help with the fundamental studies. They also produce proteins against which antibody responses can be developed. But it is quite clear that cannot talk about making a vaccine in that sense. The zeros that are missing are very significant," Maimets said.


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Editor: Roberta Vaino

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