In the past the development of new vaccines on took on average about 10 years, even the Ebola vaccine that was fast tracked took 5 years to reach widespread trials and there are many illnesses that scientists have never managed vaccinate against for example the common cold.
However, around the world scientists collaborated using the latest technology to accelerate the efforts to find a vaccine for COVID-19. In August 2020 Russia approved the use of its Sputnik Vaccine for emergency use and in December the UK authorised the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine. On May 1 2021 1.15 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered worldwide.
Many measures were employed to speed up the research. For example, rather than testing one animal at a time they tested in
parallel. The time taken to receive extra funding was reduced and everything was done to ensure that there weren't any delays in moving from one phase of trials to the next. In addition, governments invested in manufacturing facilities prior to vaccine approval to ensure that they were able to produce large quantities of a vaccine as fast as possible to be distributed around the world.
The key questions in the development of a vaccine are:
Is it safe?
Does it have any bad side effects?
Does it result in the immune system producing antibodies?
Can production of the vaccine be scaled up so that it can be produced in volume and made or distributed around the world at an affordable price?
Success of the Vaccines
Although there currently vaccines which protect against COVID-19 with regulatory approval being distributed around the world and many more in phase 3 development, viruses mutate and like flu vaccination may be required every year.
The success of a vaccine will be imperative for many measures to be lifted and for life to return to how it was before. This is due to Herd Immunity.
Herd Immunity is a form of protection where a large enough proportion of the population has immunity from the disease. This results in a low enough rate of transmission that the extremely vulnerable are protected and measures can be lifted. For COVID-19, the percentage of the population required to be immune is estimated to be 60%.