Fastest vaccine development

Fastest vaccine development
337 day(s)
United Kingdom
02 December 2020

The shortest time between the identification of a disease and the approval of a vaccine for widespread use by a national regulatory authority is 337 days. This was achieved by the BioNTech/Pfizer "Tozinameran" COVID-19 vaccine, which was authorized by the British Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) on 2 Dec 2020.

The earliest confirmed cases of what we now know as COVID-19 emerged in the city of Wuhan, China, in early December 2019. The existence of this new disease, originally called "2019-nCov Acute Respiratory Disease" was reported to the World Health Organization's China Country Office on 31 December 2019. Some studies have suggested that the disease may have been circulating in China as early as November, and that it made the jump to other countries in mid-December 2019.

The vaccine was developed by German pharmaceutical start-up BioNTech. Work on what they called "Project Lightspeed" started in mid-January 2020, shortly after the publication of the full SARS-Cov-2 genome. It works by using a short segment of genetic material, called messenger RNA (or mRNA), which stimulates cells to produce a harmless version of the SARS-Cov-2 spike protein.

Three other vaccines have been approved on a provisional basis by the authorities in their countries of origin – two Chinese vaccines (CoronaVac and BBIBP-CorV) and the Russian Gam-COVID-Vac (aka "Sputnik V"). These have a status akin to the United States Emergency Use Authorization, whereby the manufacturers have been permitted to begin a limited rollout of the drug in parallel with ongoing Phase III trials.