Barring major setbacks, multiple Covid-19 vaccines could be ready as early as by fall. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention thinks at least two vaccines are good to go by then. Last week, the CDC sent word to state officials on several possible scenarios. This includes where small stocks are available by October and more doses by the year-end. The vaccines were not named, but instructions match those from Pfizer and Moderna.
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Given the severity of the pandemic, a single company won’t be able to make enough vaccines. This is why the US government signed contracts with many pharmaceutical companies. Each pharma needs to supply the US at least 100 million vaccines as soon as they become available.
This means that the race to develop a vaccine is not contingent on a single winner. Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases dismisses the notion that it’s a contest. In an interview, he said: “I think the general public maybe has the wrong impression that there will be a winner and only one winner and everybody else will be a loser. That’s not the case at all. I think it’s quite conceivable, if not likely, that you’re going to have multiple candidates that’ll get over the finish line that will be good enough to be approved for production and use.”
Meet The Candidates
At present, there are a couple of candidates already in late-stage trials. This includes two vaccines undergoing late-stage trials: Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech. The third one from AstraZeneca and Oxford University is also undergoing large-scale trials. It had to pause trials earlier this week as a British subject developed an illness.
Despite the setback, AstraZeneca is confident it will roll out COVID-19 vaccines within 2020. CEO Pascal Soriot said that he expects data from the trials will support approval by year-end. He told reporters that “We could still have a vaccine by the end of this year, early next year.” The safety review due to the illness is a normal occurrence in large trials. This helps check if the illness is because of the vaccine, or is coincidental.
Two other companies that are in the running are Novavax and Johnson & Johnson. Both are about to start their large scale trials this September, in time for a Dec or early 2021 release. Vaccines from China and Russia also are in late-stage testing and are showing promise as well.
Limited Supplies At First
If ever the timetable proves true, not everybody will get vaccines immediately. Even as the US locked up pre-orders, limited supplies are foreseen at first. Experts estimate 10-15 million doses will arrive at first.
The National Academy of Medicine proposes rolling out the vaccine by phases. Frontline health workers and essential personnel will get to have the first doses. The next phase would vaccinate high-risk patients, seniors, and essential workers. Only after these groups will the program reach the general population.
Having different companies could also mean different segments can receive different vaccines. Different vaccine types can address groups that are more sensitive to side effects. Children and the elderly may need vaccines that are less potent than regular ones. Some types may prevent infections, while others can reduce the severity of symptoms.
COVID-19 Vaccines Possibilities
Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor, believes it’s possible to have many vaccines by 2021. He expects “different vaccines of different degrees of effectiveness and different degrees of effectiveness in a range of populations.”
By now, the Covid-19 pandemic has already caused a lot of stress among families and economies. Approval for an effective vaccine holds the best chance for things to normalize. Even if a candidate gets the green light, it will take some time before a dose reaches the average American. Until then, all we can do is remain prudent and safe.
Watch this as CNBC talks to Dr. Anthony Fauci of the CDC on the possibility that COVID-19 vaccines approval might come by end of the year:
Do you believe Covid-19 vaccines will be ready within the year? Or have you resigned yourself to a long winter ahead? Let us know how you feel about the progress of vaccine development by posting comments below.