While some experts say that a massive rollout of coronavirus testing could put America (and the world) back to work sooner than later, others say that we have little chance of returning to normal until there is a vaccine for the disease.
To be sure, there will be a certain percentage of the population – those with compromised immune systems, pre-existing conditions, etc. – who will not be comfortable heading back into the crowds without the protection of vaccination. But with researchers saying that we could be more than a year away from the development of such a vaccine, there’s not a lot of comfort to be had about the immediate future of…well, normalcy.
But could that day come more quickly than we thought?
According to Sarah Gilbert, a professor of vaccinology at Oxford University, it very well may. Gilbert is leading a team of scientists on a vaccine for the coronavirus, and she told The Times this week that she’s “80%” confident that their current formulation will be successful. She even said that it could be ready to go as early as September.
That timeframe, she said, “is just about possible if everything goes perfectly.”
“It’s not just a hunch and as every week goes by we have more data to look at,” she told The Times. “I would go for 80%, that’s my personal view.”
Then again, she acknowledged, “nobody can promise it’s going to work.”
Other prominent scientists and professors have said they see promise in Gilbert’s progress.
“The Vaccitech approach, which uses a harmless chimpanzee virus to carry the fragment of SARS-CoV-2 that is required for immunity, has been extensively tested in other situations so there is indeed a good chance it will work as designed,” said virology professor Ian Jones of the University of Reading. “More challenging however will be working out if the amount given is sufficient to give full protection and if it needs one dose or two. Two doses will mean only half the number can be vaccinated with the same batch of vaccine. Any final roll-out will almost certainly need a level of manufacturing the country does not readily have, so transfer to, and liaison with, an external manufacturer may also need to be tackled. But the roadmap is clear, let’s hope they get there.”
Indeed, there is a gap between getting a vaccine that works and then producing enough of that vaccine to get it to everyone in the UK…much less everyone else around the world.
A lot of money and effort is being concentrated, however, on the development of this vaccine at Oxford and many other research facilities in the UK, the United States, and elsewhere. Right now, it’s a race to the finish line, with global health (to say nothing of the global economy) hanging in the balance.