As President Trump says that a COVID-19 vaccine could be ready as early as January 2021, experts warn that his timeline is incredibly optimistic.
Though Dr. Anthony Fauci, the main face of the White House’s coronavirus task force, estimated at the beginning of the pandemic that it might take 12-18 months to create a vaccine, researchers have never developed a vaccine that quickly.
Typically, vaccines take as long as 10-15 years to develop, according to the History of Vaccines. Researchers have to employ three phases to create a vaccine, beginning with testing animals before slowly moving to testing on people. Vaccine development takes so long because researchers have to wait for thousands of healthy people to contract a virus and then volunteer to get the vaccine—unless they use ethically questionable human challenge trials. In a human challenge trial, people voluntarily get infected with a virus so they can test out the vaccine.
Still, the search for a COVID-19 vaccine stands out from other vaccine developments because it is the first one the entire science community has come together to develop. There are 110 COVID-10 vaccines in progress, and eight have already tested potential vaccine candidates in human subjects. While it’s unclear whether a COVID-10 vaccine will be ready by January 2021, it’s on track to become the fastest developed vaccine in history.