Seven months after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic, the coronavirus continues to rage across the globe, infecting tens of thousands in its path every day. Many have been pinning their hopes of ending the public health crisis on successful vaccine development. More than 180 vaccine projects are taking place globally, with about 42 in the process of testing their drugs on human volunteers.
Of course, we don't know when a working vaccine or vaccines will emerge but hope has been growing as more and more people volunteer for clinical trials, and governments prepare to produce and distribute them on a massive scale. At the same time, there are a growing number of questions and concerns -- over whether they will work, the possible side effects and whether they could even endanger your life, after the death of a volunteer in Brazil last week.
We address these issues today. I'm joined by Bharat Pankhania, Senior Clinical Lecturer at University of Exeter Medical School. Thank you for joining us.
We also connect with Albert Ko, Professor of Epidemiology and Medicine at Yale School of Public Health.
It's great to see you.
Dr. Pankhania: There are many different kinds of vaccines being developed around the world and it's hard for a non-scientist to differentiate between them. What are the key differences between some of the leading candidates being developed by the likes of AstraZeneca and Moderna, and do these differences matter?
Dr. Pankhania: Scientists at Imperial College London said they plan to infect vaccinated volunteers with the coronavirus early next year to see how they respond. How effective have human trial challenges been before, and will it help with COVID-19?
Dr. Ko: Vaccine developers around the world are starting to recruit volunteers to test their drugs, but of course, this is something that can't be taken lightly. There was quite a scare after a volunteer of AstraZeneca's phase three trial died in Brazil. What are the possible health implications, if things go wrong? Are there specific groups of people who shouldn't undergo trials, or wouldn't develop immunity?
Dr. Panhkania: Countries around the world are starting to form their vaccine strategies. Which groups should be first in line to get it and who comes next?
Dr. Ko: How can we ensure the vaccine works for as many people as possible including all ethnic minorities, especially in a country as diverse as America?
Dr. Pankhania: Countries like China and Russia have been conducting clinical trials in massive numbers, which inevitably has raised some concerns about how safe vaccine trials may be. What are the key safety requirements that should be in place?
Dr. Ko: What are the challenges of distributing vaccines in a country as large as the United States? How should authorities prepare?
Dr. Pankania: There have been concerns over the storage requirements for vaccines. What steps can be taken to mitigate those concerns?
To both: There's still great uncertainty over when a vaccine or vaccines will become available. President Trump, even until a few weeks ago, was claiming there could be an October Surprise. Do these kind of statements or optimistic timelines help? What would be a realistic timeframe, in your opinion?
That was Dr. Bharat Pankhania, Senior Clinical Lecturer at University of Exeter Medical School, and Dr. Albert Ko, Professor of Epidemiology and Medicine at Yale School of Public Health. Thank you for your insights.