More than six months into the covid-19 pandemic, there is still no real certainty about when a coronavirus vaccine might be widely available. Numerous different iterations of a potential vaccine have been accelerated through the clinical trials that all vaccines must undergo, a process that can normally take years before reaching completion.
Scientists and researchers working on creating these vaccines had claimed an effective , safe version would be available by the end of this year, but that no longer appears to be a real and viable option. What is happening with this timeline right now, and how soon might we actually see a coronavirus vaccine?
Race to a Vaccine
The most effective way to take advantage of the concept of herd immunity within a population is by vaccinating as many people as possible, so it is no surprise that researchers have focused intensely on creating a working vaccine. Versions of the vaccine are in clinical trials all around the world. Three major pharmaceutical companies in the United States—Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca—have versions of a coronavirus vaccine in late-stage clinical trials now. Just one of those, Pfizer, has suggested that the initial results might be available by October of this year. The others hope for results at some time before the end of the calendar year.
Most recently, people are concerned with the continued release of conflicting information from CDC Director Robert Redfield and President Trump. Dr. Redfield recently testified to US senators that a vaccine for coronavirus would likely not be available until the middle of 2021, while President Trump has repeatedly said a vaccine would be available before the presidential election in November. Many are concerned that Trump’s misinformation will contribute to a push for vaccines to be released to the general public too early, against the advice of researchers and scientists.
Most Vulnerable First
What we must consider for any vaccine timeline is that those in vulnerable populations will almost certainly have access to a vaccine much earlier than the general public. At-risk individuals might get a vaccine by the end of this year, in the absolute best-case scenario. This short timeline would also be unprecedented. In contrast, even if everything goes perfectly, the general public may well be waiting another year before a vaccine is readily available.
A working coronavirus vaccine demonstrating promising results this year would obliterate the previous record for a vaccine development: four years for the mumps vaccine. This is obviously no easy task. For now, it looks like face masks and social distancing will be here for quite some time to come.