Many people are asking about when an effective vaccine will be available for Covid-19. Operation Warp Speed launched near the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic with the state goal of producing an delivering 300 million doses of safe and effective vaccines with the initial doses available by January 2021. There are currently several vaccines in the final stages of clinical trials that show great promise and it seems likely that we should have one or more vaccines available before the end of 2020.
In response to numerous questions and concerns regarding the development of Covid-19 vaccinations, the CDC recently published an update titled "8 Things to Know about Vaccine Planning"[i] which are summarized below. The availability of a safe and effective vaccine would significantly aid our efforts to eradicate the Covid-19 pandemic.
- The Safety of Covid-19 Vaccines is a top priority. - Before approval, vaccines must first pass through a vigorous multi-stage clinical trial process overseen by the FDA. Once the FDA has determined that a vaccine is safe and effective, vaccines undergo additional evaluation by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), which will review all available data before making vaccine recommendations to the CDC. Once the vaccine is approved for use there is an extensive ongoing safety monitoring system in place to detect any adverse reactions, which may not have been detected during the clinical trials.
- Multiple different Vaccines are currently under development. In order to make an effective vaccine available as soon as possible there are currently multiple different vaccines in the development pipeline. Having multiple vaccines under development at the same time ensures that even if one vaccine is found to be unsafe or ineffective, there are still multiple other vaccines moving toward production.
- In order to expedite their availability, the FDA may issue an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) the initial vaccines. In order to determine the effectiveness of a treatment, test or device the FDA requires extensive testing. During an emergency, the FDA may issue an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) to allow the use of a treatment device or test, which has been shown to be safe when there are few or no other options currently available. The EUA allows the treatment, test or device to be used while other potentially more effective options can be developed.
- Limited supplies of multiple Covid-19 Vaccines are already in production and will be available before the end of 2020 ready to be released once approved. Following approval, the supply of available vaccine(s) will rapidly ramp up for more widespread distribution.
- During initial vaccine distribution, those groups at higher risk will be prioritized to receive the vaccine first.
- Initially, Covid-19 vaccinations may not be recommended for children. Current studies demonstrate that most children are at very low risk for experiencing serious complications from Covid-19.
- Cost will not be a barrier to receiving the vaccine. The vaccine will be made available at no charge and insurance will cover any costs associated with administering the shot. People without insurance will be able to receive the vaccine at no cost.
- Because vaccine development and distribution is a dynamic process, ongoing planning continues to ensure that the distribution of a safe and effective vaccine will be made available as soon as possible.
Although we do not yet know just how effective the new vaccines will be, every effort has been taken to ensure that they will be safe. I might also add that it would be highly advisable to take a flu shot this year (check with your doctor prior as always) to reduce your risk of the flu and thereby help to ensure that our healthcare system will have the capacity to care for those with Covid-19 until the pandemic has run its course.