COVID-19 Conversations A Webinar SeriesWith COVID-19 still on the rise and communities still adjusting to new norms like physical distancing and face masks, the big question on everyone’s mind is: When will we have a vaccine?

During the ninth installment of the COVID-19 Conversations webinar series, held earlier this month and hosted by APHA and the National Academy of Medicine, experts discussed the science that goes into developing a vaccine, public initiatives, the state of clinical trials and the challenges ahead. 

While it typically takes many years to develop a vaccine, agencies and organizations are racing to quickly create one for COVID-19, with some predicting that a vaccine could be ready for distribution by next year. But developing a safe and effective vaccine is just the first step.

To start building herd immunity to the pandemic virus, the eventual vaccine also has to be accessible, affordable and globally available, said panelist Kathleen Neuzil, MD, MPH, a professor in vaccinology and director of the Center for Vaccine Development and Global Health at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. 

“An effective vaccine for SARS-CoV2 will require that industry, government and academia collaborate in unprecedented ways by adding their individual strength,” said panelist John Mascola, MD, director of the Dale and Betty Bumpers Vaccine Research Center at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. 

To achieve a quick turnaround, initiatives such as the National Institutes of Health’s Accelerating COVID-19 Therapeutic Interventions and Vaccines, or ACTIV partnership, and the federal Operation Warp Speed effort are promoting collaboration across public and private sectors. Work to develop a vaccine is underway across the globe as well.

So far, 11 vaccines have made it into clinical trials — six in China and five in the U.S. and Europe. Sixty vaccines are expected to enter clinical trials by the end of 2020, said panelist Richard J. Hatchett, MD, chief executive officer for the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations. 

But with expectations so high, all of the panelists emphasized the need to stay focused on safety and efficacy and to start planning now to ensure equitable access to the eventual life-saving vaccine.

Registration is now open for the next webinar in the COVID-19 Conversations series, which takes place June 24, 5-6:30 pm EDT and will focus on “Learning to Treat COVID-19 — Clinical Trials and Developing Therapeutics During a Pandemic.” Video and a transcript from “The Road to Immunity During COVID-19 — Developing and Distributing a Vaccine” are also still available.

Written by Latoya Chimilio, Get Ready intern, APHA.