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Some experts are deeply skeptical we'll have a coronavirus vaccine within 18 months. Here's why a shot may take years, if we can succeed in making one at all.

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Some experts are deeply skeptical we'll have a coronavirus vaccine within 18 months. Here's why a shot may take years, if we can succeed in making one at all.
Some experts are deeply skeptical we'll have a coronavirus vaccine within 18 months. Here's why a shot may take years, if we can succeed in making one at all.

We don't have vaccines for some viruses that have long menaced humanity, like HIV and Hepatitis C.

Lawmakers and public health officials are counting on a vaccine to help get life back to normal after the coronavirus pandemic.

Dozens of research programs are underway to develop a coronavirus vaccine. Vaccines have historically faced costly, multiyear development timelines, but there's widespread optimism that the urgency of this pandemic will speed up the process this time.

For instance, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has repeatedly stated it will take at least a year to 18 months to make a vaccine available.

Read more: There are more than 40 potential coronavirus vaccines in the works. Here are the top efforts to watch, including the 8 vaccines set to be tested in people this year.

Developing a vaccine in 18 months is optimistic by historical standards

That timetable may sound cautious, but it's optimistic by historical standards. And one top Wall Street biotech analyst who used to work in the vaccine business is "deeply skeptical" of this 18-month timeline. 

Geoffrey Porges, an analyst at SVB Leerink, told Business Insider there is a less than a 20% chance that we will have an effective widely available vaccine in 2021. Even by 2023, he estimates the likelihood of achieving that is just 50%.

Porges has covered the biotech industry for 18 years and previously worked in the drug industry on vaccines. He has a medical degree from the University of Sydney.

Click here to read more about why Porges is skeptical we'll have a vaccine quickly

Taking shots in the dark against the coronavirus

Other prominent leaders have echoed Fauci's timeline. Melinda Gates said there was a "high likelihood" that we would have a vaccine in 18 months. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has also said a vaccine is 18 months away.

But people with in-depth experience of developing vaccines are more skeptical of that timeline.

Dr. Paul Offit, who helped invent the rotavirus vaccine, told CNN that timeline was "ridiculously optimistic." Peter Hotez, the dean of Baylor University's National School of Tropical Medicine, told National Geographic the 18-month timeline "would be absolutely unprecedented."

Porges said that vaccine efforts are like shots in the dark against this virus and he emphasized how much we still don't know about this novel coronavirus.

Read more: Here are the 15 leading coronavirus treatments already being tested in COVID-19 patients, and the major trials now underway to see if they work

The critical unknowns are focused on the body's reaction to being infected with the virus. The body responds to the virus by making antibodies, which are proteins crafted to fight it off.

Understanding how the body's immune system responds to the virus is important in crafting a vaccine because it will likely work by triggering these same immune responses without causing an infection. If the virus doesn't trigger the production of long-lasting antibodies, it may be difficult to craft a vaccine, for example.

Porges pointed out that there are a lot of diseases that take massive tolls on society and don't have vaccines. Many of them, such as HIV and Hepatitis C, are RNA viruses, like the novel coronavirus.

There's also the potential for a vaccine that doesn't prevent infections but lowers the risk of severe disease. This mixed efficacy would be similar to the flu vaccine.

Click here to read more about the challenges facing a coronavirus vaccine, available exclusively to BI Prime subscribers.

Read the original article on Business Insider
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