At a Senate hearing on the government’s response to the pandemic, CDC Director Robert Redfield upheld President Trump’s oft-voiced claim that a safe and effective vaccine will be available in November or December – perhaps just before the presidential election in seven weeks .
But Redfield said the vaccine will be made available first to people most susceptible to Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, and supplies will increase over time, leaving Americans looking for protection a lower rate Priority that the shot is offered gradually. In order for it “to be fully available to the American public, we are using the vaccine to get back into our normal lives,”
While every vaccinated person should benefit from it, the continued expansion of their availability means that there will be a time lag between a vaccine being approved and its measurable impact in fighting the pandemic. That could be six to nine months after the day it is approved by federal drug authorities, Redfield predicted.
He said the delay adds to the importance of safety measures such as keeping a reasonable distance, washing hands and wearing masks.
“I could even go so far as to say that this face mask protects me more from Covid than if I took a Covid vaccine,” Redfield said, since the vaccine is unlikely to produce the desired immune response in anyone who receives it .
The comments were the most detailed timeframe yet set by the chairman of the government’s main health agency. They agree with the perspective of Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases, who said in an interview with Detroit television broadcaster WDIV this week that relatively small amounts of vaccines will initially be available.
“Not until 2021 will you have hundreds of millions of doses and only the logistical constraints of vaccinating large numbers of people,” said Fauci. “It will be months before enough people are vaccinated to have a screen of immunity over the community that you don’t have to worry about easy transmission.”
Redfield’s prediction came as Trump saw the prospect of a vaccine as crucial to his prospects for a second term, with low voter approval ratings for tackling the worst public health crisis the country and world had faced in a century.
“I really think we’re going around the corner,” said the president at a press conference at the White House last week, “and the vaccines are right here.”
A vaccine is also widely seen as the linchpin for Americans not to break free from the restrictions the pandemic has placed on daily life – from recreational activities like concerts and cinemas to workplaces that remain closed.
Internationally, there is a race among pharmaceutical manufacturers to develop vaccines that are safe and effective against the virus that has infected nearly 6.6 million people and killed nearly 200,000 people in the United States. A vaccine typically takes years to develop, but researchers are working at an unprecedented rate. In January, US researchers set a world record target of developing a vaccine against the coronavirus within a year of up to 18 months.
Three experimental vaccines have now entered final testing in the US. They are made available to thousands of people to review their effectiveness and safety before submitting for federal approval. A debate is raging over whether the Food and Drug Administration should speed up the availability of a vaccine by hiring an emergency agency before going through the process of formal approval.
The CDC announced this month that states should be ready to receive a coronavirus vaccine as early as November 1 – two days before the election. This led to accusations from critics that the date was politically motivated. Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.), The subcommittee’s senior Democrat, accused the government of “rampant political interference in scientific decision-making”.
Redfield turned down such proposals during an appearance Wednesday before a Senate subcommittee responsible for the Department of Health and Human Services, of which the CDC is a part. He said the advice to states was based on the pace of science, not electoral considerations. And he said his agency is keen to avoid a recurrence of an issue that arose during a 2009 H1N1 pandemic when a vaccine became available and states were unwilling to obtain and spread it.
“We don’t want to repeat those hiccups,” Redfield told the Senators.
He also said the government lacks an estimated $ 6 billion to distribute a coronavirus vaccine. Such resources have been suggested in pandemic relief bills that Congress failed to pass, amid partisan disputes over how much more aid the government should provide for laid-off workers and a variety of other purposes.
Redfield said that getting that money “is as urgent as setting up the manufacturing facilities.”