Around the world, scientists are working to develop a Covid-19 vaccine. The process to develop drugs and vaccines is usually long and arduous and it can take many years to identify a safe and effective vaccine.
The search for a coronavirus vaccine is no different, however it is hoped that the global effort by researchers, pooling their knowledge together, will speed up this process (see the EARA map overview of research).
Regardless of the way that scientists discover a vaccine there are defined stages, often required by law, where the use of animals is an essential tool, such as testing for the effectiveness and safety of a new treatment..
Some have called for a 'quick fix' and the skipping of testing in animals. However testing on animals reduces the risk of an unforeseen reaction, in human volunteers, to an experimental drug.
In a series of infographics EARA has looked at the key stages in the development of a coronavirus vaccine and for further information go to EARA's webpages on the coronavirus.
1. Research for a vaccine starts in a lab, where scientists try to understand the nature of the coronavirus and the way it attacks the body. They will often study animals that experience the disease in similar ways to humans, often at a molecular level. The current models used to answer questions about Covid-19 are ferrets, hamsters, pigs, mice and monkeys.
2. The next step is testing the vaccine on animals to make sure the vaccine is safe and effective. This is a legal requirement set out by health regulators. Mice and monkeys are usually used in this phase.
2a. Some argue, that to speed up the process of vaccine development, the animal testing stage can be avoided and testing can begin straight away in humans, however this is fraught with dangers.
3. After animal testing, the vaccine is ready for clinical trials, which means testing in human volunteers, and if these are successful the new vaccine will be approved by national and international regulators.