The first vaccine prototype to combat the fast-spreading novel coronavirus (COVID-19) will be tested on Monday on a participant in the U.S., AP reported on Sunday. 

The trial, taking place at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle, is funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and developed in collaboration with biotechnology company Moderna.

A group of 45 people, young and healthy, will be receiving variant doses of shots that use "clever genetic engineering to harness the body's cells to produce little pieces of virus that are then recognized by the immune system," according to The Guardian.  

"The shot carries a specific stretch of messenger RNA [Ribonucleic acid] that contains the instructions to build the receptor on the virus' surface that allows the immune system to target it. In theory, if this synthetic RNA is injected into a person, it should enter their cells and program their inner machinery to churn out proteins that look exactly like the receptor on the surface of the virus. These floating receptors would then trigger the immune system without causing illness," the English publication explained further. 

Image used for illustrative purposes only. Source: Dreams Time

Participants who have volunteered to get vaccinated cannot be infected with COVID-19 as the shot does not contain the virus. 

Public health officials say a year to 18 months are needed to be able to validate any potential vaccine that would be mass-produced and distributed. Other companies are also experimenting with possible shots including Inovio Pharmaceuticals, which announced its goal of testing its vaccine contender next month. 

Even if initial safety tests go well, "you're talking about a year to a year and a half" before any vaccine could be ready for widespread use, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) is funding the tests of Inovio Pharmaceuticals, Moderna, a team at the University of Queensland in Australia, and CureVac, "the German company that was reportedly offered 'large sums of money' by Donald Trump for exclusive rights the vaccine."

Scientists in China have been testing "a combination of HIV drugs" against COVID-19, "as well as an experimental drug named remdesivir that was in development to fight Ebola." The latter is also being tested in the U.S. by the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

coronavirus, COVID-19
An illustration of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Source: Live Science

COVID-19 has, as of March 16, infected 174,085 people around the world and killed over 6,684. Out of those infected, 77,866 have recovered. 

The respiratory illness, which was announced a pandemic by the World Health Organization last week, has caused global panic and led to several governments declaring complete lockdown. 

Economies, stock markets, and tourism sectors worldwide have been experiencing losses on the daily. Experts on the matter are warning such losses and changes in daily life will affect the way people go about their jobs, vacations, and purchasing habits in the coming years (maybe decades).