COVID vaccine is coming, but it will take time

Courtesy photo

OPINION — The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that a total of 10% of the World’s population has contracted coronavirus. While that is a staggering number, the converse is more sobering. If 10% have been infected, 90% of the population is still naïve to the virus and would have no meaningful immunity. This number is important as it indicates so-called “herd immunity” will be a long time coming, unless a safe and effective vaccine can be administered first.

The coronavirus vaccines under development in the United States have been manufactured in quantity (100 million doses of each vaccine candidate) and have been stockpiled pending approval. Distribution was originally expected to begin in October-December of this year. However, FDA has just issued a new guidance for vaccine approval that half of the volunteers in the study must complete two-months of follow-up after administration of the vaccine or placebo according to the manufacturer’s protocol. Some of the vaccine candidates (the Pfizer product which was in the vanguard of the potential vaccine candidate) require two inoculations. This change means that, now, vaccine distribution to even the highest risk people will not begin until December at the earliest and more likely not until the first or second quarter of 2021. There will be no vaccine before Election Day. In contrast, both Russia and China have rolled out more than one vaccine for administration to their populations at-large.

It is plausible that FDA is reacting, at least in part, to public distrust of the current vaccine development. This is in large part due to pressure from the White House to rush a vaccine into production and distribution. The WHO noted that the public has a low tolerance for adverse reactions to vaccines. The underlying hope is that the vaccines will be well-received once they are approved resulting in a high uptake in the community at-large and herd-immunity will be reached next year. So in the meantime, please wear a mask in public, avoid crowds, social distance whenever possible, and wash your hands often.

We will still get through this.

Dr. John Andrews, “Doc John” of Lead, has a doctorate in virology, immunology, and microbiology who, after a career in developing prescription drugs, is now working on drug development to target COVID-19. He will be offering columns every two weeks about the progress of finding a vaccine for the virus.

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