Currently, there are no vaccines or treatments approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) specifically for the COVID-19 virus. Efforts are underway to develop a vaccine and to identify antiviral treatments for the coronavirus.
Researching, developing and testing a vaccine is not simple. Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, says that a safe and effective coronavirus vaccine will likely take at least 12 to 18 months to develop, possibly longer. Once an effective vaccine is developed it would work similarly to a flu vaccine, protecting against development of COVID-19.
Creating a vaccine requires six stages of development, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Those stages include discovering a potential vaccine; testing in cell cultures and in animal models; clinical testing in humans for safety, effectiveness and dosage; applying for approval; manufacturing and quality control.
A clinical trial recently began in Washington of an investigational vaccine for COVID-19. The vaccine, called mRNA-1273, is the first to be tested in humans.
Several other organizations around the world are working to develop coronavirus vaccines, with additional clinical trials expected in summer 2020.
No specific treatment for coronavirus is currently available. Care includes supportive management of symptoms and complications including pneumonia, acute respiratory distress syndrome and advanced organ support, if needed.
The investigational antiviral drug remdesivir appears the most promising treatment in development and is the furthest along in testing against COVID-19. The medication was previously tested in humans with Ebola virus and has shown some promise in research for treating Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), which are caused by other coronaviruses.
The first clinical trials in the United States of remdesivir as a treatment for COVID-19 began in February at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha. Other clinical trials of the antiviral medication are underway in China.
Several other existing medications are being tested for their effectiveness against the novel coronavirus. These include the antimalarial drug chloroquine; the HIV medication lopinavir-ritonavir (Kaletra); and the antiviral ribavirin, which is used to treat respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and hepatitis C.
Additionally, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) warns that alternative remedies, like herbal therapies and teas, do not prevent, treat, or cure COVID-19 and could potentially be harmful to one’s health.
Learn more about COVID-19 and how it affects specific health conditions in these printable patient education materials.
Download COVID-19 Materials