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COVID 19 Vaccine: How long will it take?

3 min read
There are multiple stages to the vaccine development process, which collectively constitute the total time required.
This process can be classified into three parts: scientific development, regulatory approval, and production/distribution. 
Stage 1: scientific, exploratory. This is where scientists identify natural or synthetic antigens. For coronavirus, these would be virus like particles or weakened viruses. This work is done in the lab and involves animal studies.
Stage 2: scientific, preclinical. This involves tissue and cell cultures and animals to test the safety and effectiveness of a candidate vaccine. Many candidate vaccines will not pass this stage.
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Stage 3: regulatory, investigational new drug application. A company applies to the FDA and describes its manufacturing and testing process as well as any summary reports. The FDA has 30 days to approve or reject the application.
Stage 4: scientific, vaccine trials. The candidate vaccine is tested on a small group of people (less than 100). If successful, then the candidate vaccine moves to the next stage.
Stage five: scientific, vaccine trials. The candidate vaccine is tested on a large group of people (in the thousands or more). This is to look for rare side effects that weren’t presented in the smaller group...
and to see how effective the candidate vaccine is. If successful, then the candidate vaccine moves to the next stage.
Stage 6: regulatory, license and approval. A Biologics license application is submitted to the FDA, which includes investigating production facilities and independent testing. Once approved, vaccine production for the population begins.
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Stage 7: production/distribution. Vaccines must be produced and distributed which takes time. Typically, higher risk groups will be first to be vaccinated while the supply of the vaccine increases.
Also, some people may refuse to be vaccinated.
Any changes the FDA makes to their approval process can accelerate two out of these seven stages. The other stages are arguably more static and difficult to accelerate. This is why some estimates state a vaccine will take 12 to 18 months.