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What is happening with the COVID-19 vaccine?

What is happening with the COVID-19 vaccine?

Coronavirus cases around the world have now reached over a staggering 20 million, with 737,000 tragically dying from the disease.

And the only way to beat the illness is to create a vaccine.

But creating a vaccine is no easy feat, as the entire process requires vigorous testing meaning it’s still a long way away.

At the moment, there are 139 candidates in the very early stages of pre-clinical trials - which means they’re not ready to be tested on humans.

But it’s not all doom and gloom, as there is plenty of positive progress happening.

Twenty-five students have moved into Phase One - that means they are doing small-scale safety trials on human volunteers.

Seventeen have progressed to Phase Two - which includes expanded safety trials.

Phase Three involves large-scale efficacy trials - and right now, there are seven studies around the globe tracking on that level.

For those in Phase Three, the vaccine and placebo are tested on thousands of people to ensure it’s safe and to whether or not there are any side effects.

“The most promising one is the one in the UK with the Oxford-developed vaccine,” said Professor Peter Collignon.

“We need a vaccine that’s about 90-plus per cent effective to really have a big impact.”

There are also hopes that a vaccine could be approved as early as Christmas this year.

However, Professor Collignon warned that vaccinating enough of the population to climate the virus altogether is the biggest challenge.

“If you look at diseases where we’ve been very successful - German measles, for instance - we really still need 90 per cent of the population either having had the infection or be vaccinated to be able to eliminate the disease - in other words, to not have it circulating,” Collignon said.

To put that in a global context, we would need close to two billion doses worldwide.

Australia also has their own trials underway, with Dr Paul Griffin overseeing Phase One for the University of Queensland’s vaccine and promising Novavax study.

Dr Griffin agreed with experts saying people will have to most likely wait till the end of next year before they can get vaccinated.

And we’re yet to see how it will be distributed.

But Dr Griffin hopes that those who are at most risk - the most vulnerable - will be the first priority.

“I would like to think that it’s going to be a bit of a prioritisation process,” Griffin said.

“The parts of the world and the populations that derive the greatest benefit would get access first.

“What that might look like would be vulnerable populations and the elderly and aged care homes - and perhaps our frontline healthcare workers.”