This coronavirus doesn't change quickly, and that's good news for vaccine makers

“There’s nothing alarming about the way the coronavirus is mutating or the speed at which it’s mutating,” says Emma Hodcroft, a molecular epidemiologist at the University of Basel in Switzerland. “We don’t think this will be a problem [for vaccines] in the short term.”

“To date, there have been very few mutations observed,” says Peter Thielen, a senior scientist at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory. “And any mutations that we do see are likely not having an effect on the function of the virus itself.”

That’s good news for scientists working to produce an effective vaccine by the end of the year. And it reflects the enormous quantity of genetic information on SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, that researchers have amassed since the virus appeared in China late last year.

In January, scientists were limited to just one whole genome sequence of the virus. “Today we have over 47,000 coronavirus genomes that have been submitted to international databases,” Thielen says.