The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Dr. Robert Redfield, said on Sep. 16 that he believes a vaccine will be available for the American public around the second or third quarter of 2021. Redfield told lawmakers during a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing that any vaccine available by the end of the year would be in “very limited supply,” adding that doses will be given to high-risk individuals and medical front-liners.
“If you’re asking me when is it going to be generally available … so we can get back to our regular life, I think we’re probably looking at late second quarter, third quarter [of] 2021,” he said during the hearing. He added that a vaccine could be available sometime between November and December, albeit in a “very limited supply.”
In a Sep. 17 tweet, Redfield emphasized the importance of a COVID-19 vaccine as “the thing that will get Americans back to normal everyday life.” Given that probable vaccines are still being developed, however, he reiterated in another tweet that being careful with crowds, distancing oneself from other people, washing one’s hands, and wearing a mask were the best defenses available against the coronavirus.
The best defense we currently have against this virus are the important mitigation efforts of wearing a mask, washing your hands, social distancing and being careful about crowds. #COVID19
— Dr. Robert R. Redfield (@CDCDirector) September 16, 2020
Redfield particularly defended the last point – wearing a mask or face covering – at the Senate hearing. He told lawmakers that in case the vaccine does not trigger an immune response, the mask will still protect against subsequent infections.
Trump countered Redfield’s statements, but “continued to have confidence” in him
However, President Donald Trump disputed Dr. Redfield’s estimate during an evening briefing.
He told reporters that a vaccine “could be announced in October” or a bit after that, with distribution to the public scheduled immediately. Furthermore, President Trump added that “distribution is going to be very rapid” and the Dr. Redfield may not be aware of it. (Related: Trump administration demanding nationwide rollout of COVID-19 vaccines by Nov. 1.)
The president’s coronavirus adviser Dr. Scott Atlas added that 700 million doses would be available for Americans by the end of March next year.
On the issue of face masks, the president said Redfield misunderstood the question and acknowledged that “there are some people who don’t like the mask.”
Regardless, President Trump expressed his continued confidence in Redfield despite the CDC director’s statements during the Senate hearing.
Trump’s Operation Warp Speed: A risky health gamble?
In May, the president announced Operation Warp Speed, an effort to fast-track the development of a coronavirus vaccine by January 2021. According to a fact sheet on the project by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), it brings different federal departments together to produce and deliver 300 million doses of “safe and effective” vaccines against COVID-19.
Furthermore, President Trump has affirmed that the coronavirus jab is “not mandatory” at the federal level – but individual states might make COVID-19 vaccinations compulsory.
New vaccine development normally takes around three to five years, but the current administration is pushing for one at the fraction of that period. However, doing so comes with safety risks.
AstraZeneca, one of the companies leading the way towards a coronavirus vaccine, hit a roadblock in September after a participant suffered a “serious adverse reaction” apparently triggered by toxic components in such vaccines. Other companies, meanwhile, use ingredients extracted from aborted human babies and monkeys – raising ethical concerns.
And even though a “safe and effective” vaccine is found, experts have warned that the coronavirus will continue to be a problem.
The U.S. currently has the highest COVID-19 caseload in the world with 6.6 million cases. COVID-19 related deaths in the country amounted to 197,633 while 2.5 million recoveries were reported.
Find out more news about the race to create a coronavirus vaccine at Vaccines.news.