Researchers in Hong Kong have developed a vaccine for the novel coronavirus (or 2019-nCoV) that has majorly affected China as well as several other countries, but the medicine needs time before it can be tested.
Professor Yuen Kwok-yung, chair of infectious diseases at Hong Kong University, along with his team is working on the vaccine for the novel coronavirus, according to South China Morning Post.
“We have already produced the vaccine, but it will take a long time to test on animals,” he said.
It’s unclear when it will be available to the public, but Yuen said the medicine could take months to test on animals and at least another year before they can conduct trials on humans.
The vaccine is based on the same nasal spray influenza vaccine that Yuen’s team developed before. They modified the flu vaccine with part of the surface antigen of the coronavirus. This could prevent influenza viruses as well as the new coronavirus which can cause pneumonia.
Scientists in the United States and China are also racing to develop their own vaccines for the novel coronavirus. Mainland Chinese media quoted Li Lanjuan, a Chinese infectious diseases expert, on Monday saying a vaccine for the 2019-nCoV could be made available in around a month at the earliest. However, Yuen has his doubts regarding the claim.
During the testing of the vaccine, scientists would have to inject the sample into an animal to see if it would produce a good immune response. The animal would then have to be exposed to the virus to see if it becomes protected from the infection.
“If the vaccine appears effective and safe in a number of animal species, it will go into clinical trials on humans. This takes at least one year even if expedited,” he said.
The professor said the vaccine being developed in mainland China is likely an inactivated virus vaccine. It consists of a virus grown in a culture with its infectivity destroyed by chemicals or radiation.
Yuen also expressed his concerns about the approach mainland Chinese scientists have taken while developing the vaccine. He said it could lead to a major complication such as people who were vaccinated developing more severe diseases if they were to be exposed to the virus, adding that such a reaction to coronavirus had been recorded in reports.
The total number of infected, as of the time of this writing, has surpassed the number of people who contracted severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) back in 2002 and 2003, which infected 5,237 people in mainland China, according to TIME. The number of people who were infected by the 2019-nCoV has already reached 5,974 and killed 132 people.
So far there are only two reported cases of people being cured of the virus: a 56-year-old woman from Wuhan, Hubei province, and a 46-year-old man from Zhejiang province, China.
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