From different sources we hear that a coronavirus vaccine might be ready in weeks / April / 3 months, but that they would require testing and mass production and it won't be ready to use until 12/18 months. For example, this website states,

Human trials for a coronavirus vaccine could begin ‘within a few weeks

Human trials testing a potential vaccine to prevent COVID-19 could begin “within a few weeks” with a vaccine ready for public use within the next 12 to 18 months, a top U.S. health official said.

But according to,

2009 flu pandemic vaccine

After a meeting with the WHO on 14 May 2009, pharmaceutical companies said they were ready to begin making a swine flu vaccine


As of September 2009 a vaccine for H1N1/09 was expected to be available starting in November 2009, with production of three billion doses per year.

As of 19 November 2009, the World Health Organization (WHO) said that 65 million doses of vaccine had been administered and that it had a similar safety profile to the seasonal flu vaccine, with no significant differences in the adverse events produced by the different types of vaccine

Why it's said a coronavirus vaccine wont be ready for using in 12-18 months when for the H1N1 2009 outbreak there were vaccines available in 6 months?

2 Answers 2


Sorry this is a cut and paste answer from https://pharma.elsevier.com/pharma-rd/approaches-for-creating-a-covid-19-vaccine/

Before the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, no one had ever heard of the causative agent 2019 novel coronavirus (SARS-Cov-2). There were no approved antivirals or vaccines for this virus or for any related coronaviruses (e.g., severe acute respiratory syndrome–associated coronavirus (SARS-CoV) or Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus).

Problems with COVID-19 vaccine development

Developing vaccines from scratch—which is required for COVID-19—is typically not a good option for stopping an ongoing pandemic. The extensive time required to develop a safe and effective vaccine that can prevent future disease in vaccine recipients (average of approximately 10 years) [1] means that the public health threat will end long before a candidate vaccine is licensed.

Vaccine development requires extensive planning regarding vaccine design, vaccine production and purification, preclinical testing in animals (to ensure some safety in humans), and multiple phases of clinical trials in humans (phase 1 for safety and phases 2 and 3 for efficacy). Companies taking the risk and proceeding with vaccine development for SARS-CoV-2 (at least 13 companies as of March 7, 2020) [2] are banking on the virus continuously circulating, so they have a population to conduct phase 2 and 3 trials with. If the virus disappears from circulation in China—or the perceived risk the virus poses to human health substantially declines—before phase 2 trials end, vaccine development will probably end.

Vaccine design approaches

Vaccines that are safe and stimulate the right immune responses that confer protection from disease are challenging to design. There are a number of different strategies companies have used: live attenuated or inactivated viruses, virus-like particles or other protein-based approaches, viral vector–­based vaccines or nucleic acid–based vaccines. Of the potential SARS-CoV-2 vaccines in the pipeline, four involve nonreplicating viruses or protein constructs, four have nucleic acid–based designs, two contain live attenuated viruses and one involves a viral vector [2]. Regarding the previous SARS pandemic, one inactivated SARS-CoV [3] and one DNA-based vaccine [4] made it through phase 1 trials before vaccine development ended.

The different approaches for vaccine design all carry different advantages and disadvantages [5]. Approaches involving replicating viruses stimulate robust immune responses, but safety is often a concern. Protein vaccines and nucleic acid–based vaccines are often safer but typically have less immunogenicity, and they require adjustments to induce stronger immune responses. Nucleic acid–based vaccines are typically the fastest to get into phase 1 studies, but no nucleic acid vaccine has been licensed for use in humans as of yet.

Because of safety concerns involving older populations (who have higher risk for severe disease), using a live attenuated virus might not be the best approach [6]. Patients with severe disease typically have T-helper 2 responses (immune responses typically induced against extracellular parasites), so vaccines known to elicit this type of immune response (inactivated viruses, virus vectors) might also be best avoided. Vaccines involving protein-based (virus protein subunits, virus-like particles, nanoparticles) or nucleic acid–based (DNA or RNA encoding virus structural proteins) designs, which do not have known safety disadvantages, might be the best approaches for SARS-CoV-2.

Unfortunately, our knowledge of the immune response is not advanced enough for us to accurately predict vaccine safety and efficacy. What we have to do (testing multiple different strategies) is exactly what is being done. Only with results from more extensive research will we know the absolute best approaches for SARS-CoV-2 vaccine development. 

Furthermore experts have said that the SARS-CoV-2 virus is heavily glycosalated so that potential immune epitopes are hidden from the immune system.

  • Also, when we say there's a new flu vaccine every year that is often not entirely new. If you look at the wikipedia list of strain recommendations en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…, you'll see that quite often one strain stays for several years - but there are 3 - 4 of them in the composition for each year, and the new may differ in only one of them. Mar 20, 2020 at 1:53
  • Also, every once in a while, the flu vaccine doesn't work well, because other than the predicted strains dominate. We accept that for the flu because we know it changes so fast but we tend to not accept anything like this for a more stable virus. Mar 20, 2020 at 1:54

There's an entire industry built around producing new influenza vaccines every year. If there's an outbreak of swine flu, H1N1, or any other disease in the Influenza A family, production of a new vaccine can start as soon as samples of the virus are available. Further, since the basic properties of the vaccine are well-understood, less testing is needed.

COVID-19 is in the coronavirus family. Outbreaks of coronavirus diseases tend to end before we can get a vaccine ready, so we don't really know what makes for an effective one. Should we be providing fragments of surface proteins, whole inactivated viruses, strands of representative nucleic acid, or something else? The uncertainty also means we need to go through the full testing cycle to find out if a vaccine is safe and effective.

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