About this data
Researchers worldwide are working around the clock to find a vaccine against SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing the COVID-19 pandemic. The Herculean effort means that a fast-tracked vaccine could come to market anywhere from the end of 2020 to the middle of 2021.
To date, just two coronavirus vaccine has been approved. Sputnik V – formerly known as Gam-COVID-Vac and developed by the Gamaleya Research Institute in Moscow – was approved by the Ministry of Health of the Russian Federation on 11 August. Experts have raised considerable concern about the vaccine’s safety and efficacy given it has not yet entered Phase 3 clinical trials. A second vaccine in Russia, EpiVacCorona, has also been granted regulatory approval, also without entering Phase 3 clinical trials.
In a regular vaccine study, one group of volunteers at risk for a disease is given an experimental vaccine, and another group is not; researchers monitor both groups over time and compare outcomes to see if the vaccine is safe and effective.
In a human challenge vaccine study, healthy volunteers are given an experimental vaccine, and then deliberately exposed to the organism causing the disease to see if the vaccine works. Some scientists believe that this approach could accelerate COVID-19 vaccine development, in part because it would require far fewer volunteers than a typical study.
However, there are important ethical considerations that must be addressed – particularly for a new disease like COVID-19, which we do not yet fully understand and are still learning how to treat; it may be difficult for the medical community and potential volunteers to properly estimate the potential risks of participating in a COVID-19 human challenge study.