The social distancing guidelines put in place to help slow the spread of the coronavirus have people growing restless and wondering when the end date will be for what is hopefully a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic. Here is a look how and when that could potentially happen.
Looking At The H1N1 Example
Every virus is different: they vary in complexity, the way they spread and how they react.
The last major pandemic was the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, also known as the swine flu. The first case occurred in April 2009 and the swine flu was officially declared a pandemic in June 2009.
The WHO declared the end of the pandemic in August 2010; the pandemic lasted roughly 15 months. It’s important to note that months before the pandemic was officially declared to be over, the government approved and began issuing vaccines.
COVID-19 Vaccines In The Works
It’s been made clear that COVID-19 can only truly be beaten by a vaccine, and the race to develop one took off as it became clear the coronavirus would take a foothold in the world.
Multiple biotech companies have trials in the works, but vaccines take months, if not years, to be approved and administered.
“A vaccine is not going to help us now, the next month or the month after,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said at a March White House task force briefing.
Although a vaccine can’t offer immediate help, it’s still needed, as it is believed the virus may cycle back after the initial outbreak.
“There’s a couple of handfuls of vaccines at different stages of development, but they're all following the same course,” Fauci said during the same briefing. Every drug has to go through the the FDA's three phases of clinical trials:
- Phase 1 - The purpose of this clinical phase is to test the safety and dosage of a drug. This phase includes 20 to 100 healthy participants or people with the disease. This phase takes several months. Roughly 70% of drugs move to the next phase.
- Phase 2 - The purpose of this phase is to test efficacy and side effects. This phase contains up to several hundred people with the disease and can last for several months to two years. Approximately 33% of drugs move to the next phase.
- Phase 3 - The purpose of this phase is to test for efficacy and monitor any adverse reactions. This phase contains 300 to 3,000 participants that have the disease and can last from one to four years. Approximately 25-30% of drugs move to the next phase.
If the drug actually does work, Fauci said he hopes to rush development so it will have an impact during the next cycle.
This could be a time frame of anywhere between 12 and 18 months.
There are three vaccine candidates in the clinical testing phase, according to the WHO.
CanSino Biological, in development with the Beijing Institute of Biotechnology, has a vaccine candidate in Phase 2 and another in Phase 1.
More than 60 other companies have a vaccine candidate, including Pfizer (NYSE: PFE), Gilead (NASDAQ: GILD), Dynavax Technologies (NASDAQ: DVAX), CytoDyn (NASDAQ: CYDY), GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE: GSK), Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ), Novavax (NASDAQ: NVAX), Vaxart (NASDAQ: VXRT), Vir Biotechnology (NYSE: VIR) and more.
Coming Together To Stay Apart
The timeline for a possible vaccine is not right around the corner, but actions still need to be taken now to help contain the virus. That’s where social distancing guidelines and wearing protective gear come in.
After the coronavirus peaks, it will take weeks for the number of new cases and deaths to continue to slow before governments are expected to begin to ease restrictions.
This will lower the total number of deaths and help the health care system from flooding, but will not necessarily end the pandemic, as it could cycle back.
Ending The Pandemic
The “game changer,” according to Fauci, is the approval and administration of a vaccine which, as of right now, is projected to be a year away.
Even when the H1N1 pandemic peaked, it had a second wave of infections and still returns yearly. It’s plausible that with this more easily spread virus, the same thing could occur.
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