SARS vaccine at least 2 years away, WHO says

Nov 5, 2003 (CIDRAP News) – It will probably take between 2 and 5 years to develop a SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) vaccine, depending on the scale of future SARS outbreaks, the World Health Organization (WHO) predicted today.

In a statement released after a meeting of leading SARS researchers from 15 countries, the WHO said, "The first clinical trial on an inactivated SARS vaccine could begin as early as January 2004. However, it is difficult to say when a vaccine might be available. A resurgence of SARS may accelerate the process and result in a vaccine within two years. If there is no big outbreak of SARS then the vaccine will follow the classical development path, and would not be ready for four to five years."

WHO Director-General Dr. LEE Jong-Wook called vaccine development efforts encouraging but said any SARS resurgence in the near term will have to be managed with surveillance, early diagnosis, contact tracing, hospital infection control, and international reporting.

Experts at the 2-day meeting in Geneva reviewed progress in SARS vaccine development and identified ways to speed development and testing, the statement said. Their discussion was guided by extensive available information on vaccines against animal diseases caused by coronaviruses other than the SARS virus.

Dr. Marie-Paule Kieny, director of the WHO Initiative for Vaccine Research, said, "If we are to develop a SARS vaccine more quickly than usual, we have to continue to work together on many fronts at once, on scientific research, intellectual property and patents issues and accessibility. It is a very complicated process involving an unprecedented level of international cooperation which is changing the way we work."

The researchers considered how intellectual property issues can help rather than hinder the rapid development of SARS vaccines and ensure that any vaccine will be available in both industrialized and developing countries, the WHO said.

The group also discussed regulatory issues, including the prospect that SARS vaccines may have to be licensed without data from human efficacy trials. Given the severity of the disease and the urgent need for a vaccine, human efficacy trials might be inappropriate, the WHO said.

See also:

WHO news release

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