With promising results emerging from the US, China, and elsewhere for tested vaccines, predictions as to the first vaccine’s availability are anything but consistent.
Last Thursday, we heard of the Trump Administration’s “Project Warp Speed,” an effort to make 300 million vaccines available by January 2021. The project is being co-chaired by Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.
“I’m confident that we will be able to deliver a vaccine at scale in time” said Esper.
Not all share the administration’s optimism. CNBC’s Dr. Scott Gottlieb is on the board of Biotech company Illumina and pharmaceutical giant Pfizer which is currently in development of a vaccine. Gottlieb said on CNBC last week,
"Look, the more effective the vaccine is, the earlier we're going to get a reading on whether or not it's working”
Gottlieb did acknowledge the 2021 timeframe was reasonable, without point to any time early in the calendar year.
"I think we'll have to have one more cycle of this virus in the fall, heading into the winter, before we get to a vaccine....I really think a vaccine is probably a 2021 event, in terms of having wide availability of a vaccine for the general population."
Aggressive, Confusing Timelines
But the aggressive timeline of Project Warpspeed is confounding to the scientific community at large. Dr. Kavita Patel was a senior medical official in the Obama administration and was a key member of the H1N1 virus vaccine development.
Patel commented, “All of us in the science community are pretty baffled as to how this can happen....What are we sacrificing for speed?...How are we going to cut corners?”
As first trials close for some manufacturers, trials targeting geographic regions where outbreaks are spreading continue to be discussed.
You have to really guess right now what city you're going to have outbreaks in, because if you start doing a trial in Dallas and there's an outbreak in Houston in the fall, or you do a city like Boise [Idaho], which has been largely unexposed, and it ends up being outbreaks in Little Rock [Arkansas], you haven't deployed the vaccines in the settings where you're going to get an early answer” Dr. Gottlieb commented on CNBC.