Coronavirus pandemic

Vaccine takes time to develop, may not give long-term immunity

Covid-19 restrictions such as safe distancing and the wearing of masks are likely to remain until a vaccine or treatment is developed, said National Development Minister Lawrence Wong. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG
Covid-19 restrictions such as safe distancing and the wearing of masks are likely to remain until a vaccine or treatment is developed, said National Development Minister Lawrence Wong. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

Those hoping for a quick end to Covid-19 restrictions must be realistic, given that the development of a vaccine will take time, said Minister for National Development Law-rence Wong.

In an interview with Money FM 89.3 yesterday, he said that despite the challenges, the good news is that there is a "massive global effort" to develop a vaccine.

"Many countries, companies and researchers, including Singaporean ones, are involved in these efforts," he said.

"We certainly hope that there will be a breakthrough, but it will take time for any vaccine to be ready for mass distribution."

The Agency for Science, Technology and Research has partnered Japanese pharmaceutical company Chugai Pharmabody Research to develop an antibody that targets specific areas of the coronavirus, preventing it from infecting cells.

Others, such as Duke-NUS Medical School, together with American biotechnology company Arcturus Therapeutics, are working on a vaccine that gets the human body to produce part of the virus in order to fight it.

Experts have estimated that it could take more than a year to come up with a vaccine, said Mr Wong, adding that this is an optimistic timeline.

"Even if there is a vaccine, it doesn't mean everything goes away.

"There is a chance that the vaccine may not provide long-term immunity, and that the coronavirus may become another endemic disease in the human population," he said.

"So, if we look at this realistically, we certainly want a vaccine to be found quickly. But there are risks, and we need to be prepared for this to be a long fight."

Grace Ho

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 03, 2020, with the headline Vaccine takes time to develop, may not give long-term immunity. Subscribe