Medical teams and researchers around the world are racing to develop a vaccine for COVID-19 which has sickened more than 127,000, but health experts say a novel coronavirus vaccine is still 12 to 24 months away.

David Kelvin, a professor of microbiology and immunology at Dalhousie University, just received a $1-million grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research to help examine the outbreak, specifically relating to his work on evaluating patients diagnosed with the virus.

He said a realistic target for a vaccine would be in the 18-month range. The WHO has also said a vaccine is at least 18 months away.

“It might happen sooner but I think that’s unrealistic,” Kelvin told Global News. “18 months to two years would be really fantastic if we achieved that target.”

Kelvin said vaccines traditionally take years to develop, but there’s been one advantage with COVID-19 — the structure and genome of the virus is very similar to the SARS coronavirus. This has allowed scientists to draw on the research from early SARS vaccine candidates.

Kelvin’s said his colleague, Chris Richardson, is currently working on a vaccine that places a SARS protein inside the measles vaccine. Testing is now underway at the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization – International Vaccine Centre (VIDO-InterVac) at the University of Saskatchewan.

“The first phase of testing is in animal models and those models allow us to determine whether or not that vaccine allows for protection against infection with COVID 19,” he said.

Steven Hoffman, the director of the Global Strategy Lab and a professor of global health, law and political science at York University, said the best estimates indicate a vaccine is still another year away from being fully deployed.

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