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How Long Does It Really Take to Develop a Vaccine?

What is the real cost of a virus outbreak?

A pandemic has the ability to grind industries to a halt such as COVID-19 has done in the past few months affecting the transport, hospitality and numerous other kinds of industries, negatively.

Vaccine development takes time and money. Sometimes, the development follows a disease outbreak or pandemic, whether for a short of long duration, for example in the case of the E.coli outbreak of Ontario, 2000. The epicenter of the outbreak was well 5 in Walkertown which spread around the town due to lack of the PUC's failure to inform the town’s administration initially. And when the numbers grew, authorities denied the town water was contaminated which was later ascertained to be contaminated.

Outbreaks like that one, and many others from the decade before yielded a hunt for a vaccine. This process, like all vaccine development involved research, government funding and trials.

This process, as you can see on the Bioscience Boardroom series on the E.coli outbreak and vaccine development after, follows the journey of one vaccine manufacturer which took over 15 years.

This, begs the question, how long does it really take to develop a vaccine? Ever since the first vaccine was developed centuries ago, immunization is very important in ensuring past diseases do not reemerge by preventing people from getting the disease. Polio, smallpox, measles and diphtheria were the original vaccines required for children. Since there was plenty of funding during the development for these vaccines, the cost of getting immunized was very low. However, new diseases keep on being discovered necessitating the need for the development of more vaccines. Vaccine development and biotechnology companies and research often take years of research and studies to get a working vaccine and is affected by the following factors:

1. Cost of Vaccine Development

A Washington Post report estimates human vaccine development costs averaging at around $800 million dollars and the more complicated the disease, the costlier it becomes and costs can go up to $2.1 billion dollars. Experts however claim that costs can shoot up to $5 billion!

2. Time Taken for Vaccine Development

Developing a vaccine is a time consuming process and experts estimate a timeline between 10 to 15 years to find a working vaccine. Obviously, the longer it takes, the costlier it becomes. There are many factors that affect the longevity of the vaccine development process. These include but are not limited to the vaccine manufacturer, the disease/virus, the country of development, access to funding, facilities, permits and qualifications, etc.

3. Priority in Vaccine Development

Finally, vaccines are developed on a matter of priority. Priority is given to diseases that are epidemics, common among certain age groups, fatal, are easily spread and affect huge blocks of regions, entire countries, continent or even the world. This is why several companies are racing to develop a COVID-19 vaccine for mass immunizations due to its fast spread, fatality rate and paralyzing effect on economies. For an update on the COVID-19 testing: For an update on the status of COVID-19 vaccines from the World Health Organization as of June 9th:

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