09/27/2020 / By Ramon Tomey
As many as 100 million coronavirus vaccines could be ready for distribution as early as October, according to the White House. Speaking to reporters on Sept. 17, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said that the initial tranche of 100 million vaccines would be sent to individuals with the highest risk of contracting the virus. He added that the second tranche of about 200 million could be ready by January next year.
Meadows’ statement follows remarks by both President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, both of whom have said that the administration is on track to have 100 million coronavirus vaccines before the year ends.
Scientists are racing to test vaccine candidates, with a number of them currently in phase III — the last testing phase required before approval and distribution. A number of vaccines are already being manufactured through the administration’s Operation Warp Speed program, in case the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves them.
The Trump administration also released a strategy and playbook for distributing the FDA-approved vaccine to all Americans. According to the playbook, the vaccination campaign is to commence gradually in January 2021 or earlier than that period.
Meanwhile, Director Robert Redfield of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) emphasized the necessity of a vaccine during a U.S. Senate hearing. When asked about the availability of a COVID-19 vaccine, Redfield gave an estimate of “[about] late second quarter [or] third quarter [of] 2021.” (Related: COVID-19 vaccine may not be generally available “until next summer”: CDC chief.)
Commenting on Redfield’s answer during the hearing, Meadows said that the CDC director “hasn’t had intimate discussions” on the vaccine production timeline as his office isn’t directly involved with vaccine development.
Meanwhile, Democrat presidential candidate Joe Biden said that a vaccine “will not be available for most of the population until well into 2021” during a speech. Biden added that the development cycle for vaccines don’t adhere to election cycles and reiterated that their timing, approval and distribution “should never … be distorted by political considerations.”
President Trump announced Operation Warp Speed in May to fast-track the development of a COVID-19 vaccine by early next year. Based on a fact sheet by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Operation Warp Speed brings different federal departments together to produce and deliver 300 million doses of “safe and effective” vaccines – at a fraction of the duration it typically takes to develop a new vaccine.
However, rushing to finish a vaccine comes with corresponding health risks.
In early September, pharmaceutical company Astra Zeneca hit a roadblock in its trials for the coronavirus vaccine after a test subject experienced a “serious adverse reaction.” Almost a fortnight later, another test subject experienced the same reaction from AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine.
The company has remarked that transverse myelitis, an inflammation of the spine, is a “rare” disease and had nothing to do with the coronavirus vaccine trials. AstraZeneca is one of the companies participating in Operation Warp Speed, and it would be too soon to say whether its coronavirus vaccine would see widespread use after these adverse effects emerged.
The U.S. has the highest worldwide COVID-19 caseload at 6.8 million with 200,814 fatalities, based on data from Johns Hopkins University.
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