Seven years after the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) outbreak, a new severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) made its first appearance in a food market in Wuhan, China, drawing an entirely new course to our lives. As the virus belongs to the same genus of MERS and SARS, researchers have been trying to draw lessons from previous outbreaks to find a potential cure. Although there were five Phase I human vaccine trials against SARS and MERS, the lack of data in humans provided us with limited benchmarks that could help us design a new vaccine for Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). In this review, we showcase the similarities in structures of virus components between SARS-CoV, MERS-CoV, and SARS-CoV-2 in areas relevant to vaccine design. Using the ClinicalTrials.gov and World Health Organization (WHO) databases, we shed light on the 16 current approved clinical trials worldwide in search for a COVID-19 vaccine. The different vaccine platforms being tested are Bacillus Calmette–Guérin (BCG) vaccines, DNA and RNA-based vaccines, inactivated vaccines, protein subunits, and viral vectors. By thoroughly analyzing different trials and platforms, we also discuss the advantages and disadvantages of using each type of vaccine and how they can contribute to the design of an adequate vaccine for COVID-19. Studying past efforts invested in conducting vaccine trials for MERS and SARS will provide vital insights regarding the best approach to designing an effective vaccine against COVID-19.
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