Chinese state media has announced that a subunit vaccine against the novel coronavirus has been developed and is now entering clinical trials. The approval for the tests was granted late local time on March 16 and was officially announced to the public on March 17 by China Central Television. According to the announcement, this vaccine was developed by the Academy of Military Medical Sciences.
A vaccine to protect against the novel coronavirus is necessary to greatly reduce its spread. This will reduce the burden on the healthcare system and will help protect the lives of people who are vulnerable to the virus. Experts have said that we are likely 12 to 18 months away from the approval of a virus that would be given to the general public.
In its announcement this week, Chinese media said that the Academy of Military Medical Sciences Major General Chen Wei, a bioengineer, and her team developed the subunit vaccine in Wuhan. An unspecified third party reportedly evaluated the vaccine and approved it as being safe and effective.
‘Preliminary preparation’ for the mass production of this vaccine is allegedly also underway, according to the announcement. There is a ‘catch’ to this, however, and it’s that the vaccine is of the ‘subunit’ variety.
This type of vaccine involves only parts of the virus that can be used to stimulate someone’s immune system, helping it fight against the virus when the person comes in contact with it. This is different from other types of vaccines, such as whole-pathogen vaccines, which involve a weakened or killed version of the virus.
The latter type of virus provides a much stronger immune response, which means it is better able to protect someone from the pathogen that it introduces into their system. Most modern vaccines are of the whole-pathogen variety, not subunits, according to the NIH. Both of these differ from the mRNA vaccine that entered testing in the US earlier this month.