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The race to develop a coronavirus vaccine

We are still several months away with many companies working to find a successful candidate

SAN ANTONIO — As the coronavirus pandemic rages on across the globe the race to produce a successful vaccine to mitigate the spread is on. But how far away are we from getting that vaccine, and how effective will it really be?

Historically only about one out of every three vaccine candidates actually make it to people. But with so many companies racing to produce that successful vaccine using different strategies, experts say the chance of at least one of them coming to market is much higher.

Dr. Jason Bowling, an Infectious Disease Associate Professor with UT Health San Antonio told us, "We are closer but we are still a few months out from the coronavirus vaccine. We are waiting on more study data where they study more people who are receiving the vaccine or the placebo basically, to test out how effective and safe the vaccine is, and that will still take a few more months."

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Developing that vaccine also presents a unique challenge. Dr. Bowling said, "One of the challenges with vaccines is you want a product that stimulate the immune system strongly enough to create antibodies to prevent infections but you also want it to be safe and not to overstimulate the immune system either, or to cause a lot of side effects."

The CDC says last year's flu vaccine was 45 percent effective. For the four years before that the vaccine ranged between about 30 and 50 percent. But in the 2014 to 2015 flu season the vaccine was only 19 percent effective. What if the coronavirus vaccine is only that effective as well?

"It's possible that we get one that comes out that is not very effective at all, and there's a chance that it comes out, what we all hope for, and it comes out and it's extremely effective," Bowling said.

Herd immunity is another way to stifle this pandemic, but in Spain where cases skyrocketed quickly early on in the pandemic, only five percent developed antibodies.

"We really need vaccines to bump us up further. We really hope to see 60 percent or more people that have antibodies to COVID to feel more comfortable that we have some herd immunity to prevent this ongoing pandemic," he said.

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