A look at developing a vaccine through phases

Developing a vaccine can take years, sometimes decades, and companies from New Jersey to China are racing to find one for coronavirus.

News 12 Staff

Jun 18, 2020, 12:38 PM

Updated 1,402 days ago

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Developing a vaccine can take years, sometimes decades, and companies from New Jersey to China are racing to find one for coronavirus.
PHOTOS: COVID-19 Impacts the World
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While there's increasing optimism, research can be fast-tracked, and the process has some distinctions.
Finding a vaccine now hinges largely on COVID-19’s ability to mutate. The process goes in phases.
It starts with phase zero. Doctors study how bodies process the new drug, especially in major organs such as the heart, liver, kidneys and lungs. It's a small sample, around 10 to 15 people.
In phase one, the focus is dosage and side effects, which goes until side effects become too severe or toxic. This phase increases to about 15 to 30 patients. Some get a low dose of a drug; other people receive higher doses.
If proven safe, the testing grows in phase two, involving treatments and placebos. The phase also determines how much to give, and how long it lasts in the body.
In phase three, scientists establish what the drug is good for -- can it help COVID-19 patients with mild symptoms? Is it better for those on ventilators? In the short term, a strategy is repurposing drugs. It cures malaria, might it beat COVID-19? This one treats asthma, so let's try it. Stroke is a concern, how about a blood thinner?
If the drugs don't work, studies start all over again.
Treatments already approved for other conditions skip straight to phase three, why these are so often in the news.
After, it's about watching to see how immunity develops, which happens after the drug is approved and goes out around the world.


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