Health experts have good news for anyone who is ready for the COVID-19 crisis to finally come to an end. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have asked governors nationwide to prepare for large-scale distribution of a vaccine as early as November. The encouraging news comes as the nation’s top immunologist, Dr. Anthony Fauci, raises hopes that a COVID-19 vaccine could be ready by the end of the year.
Dr. Fauci has been reluctant in the past to make promises of a speedy end to the crisis. As recently as Monday, August 24, the expert balked at the possibility of an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) to fast-track a vaccine too soon.
“[T]he one thing that you would not want to see with a vaccine is getting an EUA before you have a signal of efficacy,” Fauci told Reuters. “To me, it’s absolutely paramount that you definitively show that a vaccine is safe and effective, both.”
The National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases director also expressed concerns of interfering with vaccine efforts elsewhere.
“One of the potential dangers if you prematurely let a vaccine out is that it would make it difficult, if not impossible, for the other vaccines to enroll people in their trial,” he said.
Cautious Hope For a Vaccine
Despite these warnings, Fauci has since expressed optimism that a safe vaccine would become available by the end of 2020. Speaking to TODAY on September 2, he reported that several trials have gathered “enough data that you would really feel comfortable it was safe and effective for the American public.”
“I believe that by the time we get to the end of this calendar year that we will feel comfortable that we do have a safe and effective vaccine,” Fauci said.
Fauci isn’t the only expert who feels optimistic about vaccine trials. In an August 27 letter addressed to US governors, CDC director Robert Redfield outlined plans for “large-scale” vaccine distribution by November 1.
According to NBC News, the CDC has partnered up with pharmaceutical company McKesson Corp. for the project. Their goal is to be able to distribute massive amounts of a potential vaccine by the fall.
“If necessary, [the CDC] asks you to consider waiving requirements that would prevent [distribution facilities] from being fully operational by November 1, 2020,” Redfield said.
Multiple Vaccine Candidates
As for how close a viable vaccine is, NBC News reports that several trials are showing promising results. According to the outlet, pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca began Phase 3 trials this week. In addition, the companies Moderna Inc. and BioNTech reportedly began trials earlier in the summer.
Meanwhile, a planning document obtained by the New York Times outlined different potential scenarios for vaccine distribution in the fall. One scenario projected 2 million doses being distributed by the end of October. Another one predicted 10 to 20 million by the end of November.
Stephen Hahn, the commissioner for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), also raised the possibility of fast-tracking a vaccine before completion of Phase 3 trials. However, he echoed Fauci in stating that it would depend on many factors.
“We may find that appropriate,” Hahn told The Financial Times. “We may find that inappropriate. We will make a determination.”