How soon could we see a coronavirus vaccine? A local expert weighs in

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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WJW) — If President Trump gets his way, there will be a life-saving coronavirus vaccine by the end of the year.

In what has been called “Operation Warp Speed”, the president wants a team of government officials, scientists and private companies to produce hundreds of millions of doses of the vaccine by December.

Dr. Mark Cameron is an immunologist and associate professor at Case Western Reserve University.

He doesn’t expect a vaccine to be ready until sometime next year.

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“Something like this has not been done before,” Cameron told FOX 8’s Kristi Capel during a live interview on FOX 8 News in the Morning Wednesday. “This vaccine effort from scientists worldwide is really a first.”

“It’s a difficult process to rush because it has to go through several phases.”

Cameron said the first step is a preclinical phase in animals. Once researchers find a vaccine candidate it moves on to clinical testing phases in humans. Cameron said that is a long process that goes through four phases.

The safety of the vaccine is tested first. Then it moves to larger groups where the efficacy is tested, along with the vaccine’s safety, he explained.

“It’s difficult to get around that process,” Cameron said.

There are about eight phase one clinical trials underway in the United States, Cameron estimated.

“Vaccines can’t be rushed by design,” he said. “These vaccines that are in early clinical trials right now will likely be in that phase for a number of months.”

He said the immune response generated by the vaccine has to be strong.

Cameron said researchers will begin selecting the most effective and safest vaccines to move into the next phases of clinical testing in a few months.

“I think the ‘warp speed’ factor of the vaccine has been quite appropriate in terms of what has happened and how quickly these have been developed,” he said. “But that really is a terminology for the first phase of this work.”

“I think the next year will show that those second and third phases can be completed just as quickly as we got the vaccines out there,” Cameron said.

He is hoping for a vaccine by the start of the cold and flu season in fall of next year.

“I think that’s a realistic goal with this early approach,” he said.

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