The World Health Organization says that at least 20 coronavirus vaccines are currently in development in the global race for a cure.
The first human trial, by the Boston-based biotech firm Moderna, is already underway.
“Going from not even knowing that this virus was out there, which we then identified it as being a cause of infection in China in January, to have any vaccine that we can actually initiate a clinical trial in about two months is unprecedented,” said Dr Lisa Jackson, the Kaiser Permanente investigator leading the first human trial.
This extraordinary speed is thanks in large part to early Chinese efforts to sequence the genetic material of the virus that caused COVID-19.
China shared that information in early January, allowing researchers around the world to replicate the virus and study how it invades human cells and infects people.
Jennifer Haller was the first person to be injected with the trial vaccine. “Everybody is feeling so helpless right now,” Haller said. “And I realised that there was something that I could do to help, and I’m excited to be here.”
Experts say it could still take about 18 months for any potential vaccine to become available to the general public.
Last week, China also approved the start of clinical trials on a vaccine.