Experts say most people won’t be able to get a coronavirus vaccine for many more months

when can people get a coronavirus vaccine
Photo via Jernej Furman/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

When can people get a coronavirus vaccine? Not for a while. Even if a COVID-19 vaccine is approved this fall, it turns out that most people won’t be able to get it until mid-2021 for safety reasons, experts say.

There are three COVID-19 vaccines in phase 3 clinical trials, according to the Regulatory Affairs Professionals Society: China National Pharmaceutical Group’s inactivated vaccine, Sinovac’s CoronaVac, and Moderna’s m-RNA-1273. Moderna, funded by the White House’s Operation Warp Speed, is looking most likely to be the first COVID-19 vaccine from the U.S. 

According to Bloomberg, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said even if a vaccine gets approved for the next phase, the licensure and the distribution to the masses may have to wait six to nine months.

“I would hope that by the time we get well into the second half of 2021 that the companies will have delivered the hundreds of millions of doses they have promised,” said Fauci.

National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins echoed the warning that not everyone will get the vaccine at first, Bloomberg reported. 

“There will be tens of millions of doses at the time that the first vaccine gets approved,” Collins said. “It won’t be enough for everybody, and so decisions will have to be made about priorities.”

Bloomberg reported that the “delay” is because, at the beginning of 2021, U.S. health regulators would not have enough safety and efficacy data. Peter Hotez, the dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Texas, told Reuters that “collecting enough data to prove a vaccine is safe for the world could take until mid-2021.”

Stephane Bancel, the chief executive officer of Moderna, told Bloomberg that he predicts that at the very least, the Food and Drug Administration could approve emergency authorization for “a very narrow population at very high risk.” Reuters defines people in this at-risk population as those with diabetes, healthcare workers, and military members. 

It will also take time to produce and deliver millions of vaccine doses, even with the help of Operation Warp Speed. Bloomberg reported that the federal government is still in the early stages of developing a plan, although it has already tapped the Department of Defense to help deliver.

Reuters also reported that people from wealthy nations, like the United States, will get vaccinated much faster than people in impoverished countries.  

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Sources: RAPS, Bloomberg, Reuters

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