Giving Compass' Take:

•  Anna Mouser, the policy lead for the vaccine team at the medical non-profit, the Wellcome Trust, breaks down the phases of vaccine development to better understand the process. 

• In terms of the COVID-19 vaccine, normal vaccine development stages are happening in parallel to accelerate progress and requires sizeable up-front investment instead of phased capital. How can donors help with funding vaccine research? 

• Read why global collective action is necessary to fund vaccines. 

Vaccines are one of the most important tools in combatting infectious diseases, and developing one that is safe, affordable, and widely available is crucial to changing the course of the COVID-19 pandemic.

An effective vaccine would increase immunity to the virus, because a vaccine is a type of medicine that trains the body’s immune system to fight off a disease it has not encountered before, as the University of Oxford’s Vaccine Knowledge Project explains.

That means leaders and health experts are keen to accelerate progress towards a solution that could save thousands of lives and enable people around the world to return to their everyday lives.

Here, we break down what the vaccine development process normally looks like — and what scientists and manufacturers are doing to work quickly and safely on a COVID-19 vaccine. To give us some insight, we spoke to Anna Mouser, the policy lead for the vaccine team at the medical non-profit, the Wellcome Trust.

How are vaccines made and how long does it take?
There are typically years of clinical trials needed to produce a safe and effective vaccine, with researchers testing multiple vaccine candidates, as failure rates are generally high.

For example, the Food and Drug Administration in the US only approved a vaccine for Ebola last year, 43 years after the discovery of the disease.

Vaccine science is “fiendishly complex” says Mouser. Because vaccines are given to healthy people to prevent illness, the rigour to which safety and testing are held is higher than for treatments given to people who are already ill, Mouser says.

“They have to be safer than safe,” she says, “and they really are." To get a vaccine from start to finish there are multiple steps.

“You’ve got scientific barriers first,” she continues.“Then you’ve got lots of regulatory barriers. You need to get approvals for each clinical trial, including ethical approvals, and then approvals for each part of the manufacturing process.”

“Then you need a green light from the different countries who are going to be distributing it," she adds.

Read the full article about vaccine development by Helen Lock at Global Citizen.