Public media seems to broadly suggest that a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine is simply a matter of time. However, this not great source suggests that all other common human coronaviruses only provide immunity for 1-2 years after infection. None of them have effective human vaccines (source: I just clicked through all the ones here and they all say no human vaccine). Stepping one level higher, I can't find any [+]ssRNA viruses that have effective human vaccines.

What evidence, if any, do we have to suggest that we will be more successful in developing a vaccine for SARS-CoV-2 than for other similar viruses? What evidence, if any, do we have that acquired post-infection immunity or vaccination immunity would last for more than one year?

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    Isn't this question somewhat premature? The sars-cov-2 virus was only just sequenced and named this year Mar 21, 2020 at 20:25
  • Knowing the likelihood of success is critical to immediate public health decision making. If we have an immune response similar to HCOV-OC43 and can't develop a vaccine, we are going to have an outbreak like the current one every single year forever, so we have to try to wipe it out 100%. If we have a clear path to a likely long-lasting vaccine on the other hand, we just to need to focus on controlling the number of cases until the vaccine is ready. Those are extremely different public policy approaches, and both get much harder the longer we wait to decide.
    – ericksonla
    Mar 21, 2020 at 21:23
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    if the virus can not be eliminated, it is likely to become endemic bouncing between the hemispheres. Vaccine trials have only just started phase 1 testing. Just wait a year and ask again. Mar 21, 2020 at 21:35
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    I don't think this question is answerable at this time. Imagine being in year zero of the very first influenza epidemic and someone asks you this question. Whatever your answer is would be a guess, and it would have a 50/50 chance of being right.
    – Carey Gregory
    Mar 22, 2020 at 4:24

1 Answer 1


Of the other known human corona viruses, only SARS and MERS have a significant mortality rate; MERS being quite deadly. While it is true that there is no approved vaccine against these yet, there has been some promising progress:

There are several vaccine candidates for MERS. One has completed a clinical trial with promising results.(source: Lancet)

Several candidate vaccines were developed for SARS. (sources: Future Medicine, NBC News). It seems that the first trials were based on the inactivated complete virus or the full spike protein of the virus. These vaccines showed that they stimulated the immune system to protect against the virus, but that the immune response was too harmful. A subsequent vaccine was based on only the receptor-binding domain of the viral spike protein. It appears that the developers were not able to get funding for a clinical trial.

Thankfully, SARS has been contained, and MERS only infects several hundred each year. I am hopeful that vaccines will eventually be approved for these diseases as well as COVID-19. I cannot speak to the how long the immunity from a vaccine would last.

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