Looking at the final phase of vaccine trials

Courtesy photo

OPINION — Let’s take a look today at the status of the vaccines currently in the final stages (called phase 3) of development.

In a House of Representatives subcommittee hearing on July 21, executives from AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Moderna, and Pfizer said that one or more vaccines may be available as early as the beginning of 2021. During the hearing, executives from AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson said they would provide their vaccines at low or no cost to Americans.

Recently the trial sponsored by AstraZeneca was put on clinical hold while a suspicious serious adverse event was evaluated. The hold was recently lifted, and the trial has been re-opened to enrollment once the event was understood medically and was determined not to be related to the vaccine itself.

Vaccine candidates from Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Johnson and Johnson are the furthest advanced and the readout from these trials may happen as early as the end of October. If these evaluations are successful, then Americans can expect a vaccine in 2021. However, Pfizer recently stated that if their vaccine requires two inoculations (one month apart for example) then there will not be enough of their vaccine to immunize all the people world-wide until 2024.

These companies and other vaccine manufacturers are backstopping their first vaccine candidates with new products entering early clinical studies. These second-generation vaccines may be improved over the first-generation candidates in terms of coverage and the quality of the immune response they generate.

I think we can reasonably expect a vaccine to be available in the United States sometime in first half of 2021. Due to initial supply limitations, a vaccine will be rolled out first to persons in nursing homes, healthcare workers, the elderly and persons with compromising underlying conditions that makes them more vulnerable to infection. Vaccines may not be distributed to the general population.

As Dr. Fauci has said, we may have to “hunker down” this fall and winter and expect to begin the return-to-normal in the second half of 2021. It is time for Americans to step up to the plate and endure as our fathers and their fathers did during World War II. We are tough and resilient. We can do this!

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