At a Senate hearing on the government’s response to the pandemic, CDC Director Robert Redfield complied with President Trump’s frequent statement that a safe and effective vaccine would be available in November or December – perhaps just before the presidential election seven weeks away.
But Redfield said the vaccine will first be delivered to people most vulnerable to covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, and supplies will increase over time, so Americans with lower priority for protection will be offered the shot more. gradually. In order for it to be “fully available to the American public, so we start using the vaccine to get back to our ordinary lives,”
Although any vaccinated person should benefit, he said, the gradual expansion of its availability means that there will be a time lag between when a vaccine is approved and when it can have a measurable effect in controlling the pandemic. Redfield predicted it might be six to nine months after the day it is approved by federal drug regulators.
He said the delay reinforces the importance of safety precautions, such as keeping an appropriate distance, washing hands and wearing masks.
“I can even go so far as to say that this face mask is more guaranteed to protect me from covid than when I take a covid vaccine,” said Redfield, because the vaccine is unlikely to produce the desired immune response in anyone who gets it. .
The comments were the most detailed time frame outlined so far by the head of the government’s main public health agency. They are in line with the perspective of Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who said in an interview this week with Detroit television station WDIV that there will initially be relatively small amounts of vaccine.
“It is only when we enter 2021 that you have hundreds of millions of doses and only the logistics, limitations in vaccinating a large number of people,” Fauci said. “It will take months to get enough people vaccinated to get an umbrella of immunity over the community so you don’t have to worry about easy transmission.”
Redfield’s forecast came as Trump has maintained the prospect of a vaccine as crucial to his prospects for another term, with low approval ratings among voters for his handling of the worst public health crisis the country and the world have faced in a century.
“I really think we’re getting around the corner,” the president told a White House news conference last week, “and the vaccines are right here.”
A vaccine is also widely seen as a focal point for Americans to be free from the constraints that the pandemic has imposed on their daily lives – from recreation such as concerts and cinemas to workplaces that remain closed.
A race is underway internationally among pharmaceutical manufacturers to develop vaccines that are safe and effective against the virus, which has infected nearly 6.6 million people in the United States and killed nearly 200,000. Developing a vaccine typically takes years, but researchers are working at unprecedented speed. In January, US researchers established the goal of a world record pace to develop an inoculation against coronavirus within a year to 18 months.
Now, three experimental vaccines have entered the final phase of testing in the United States – allowing thousands of people to test its effectiveness and whether it is safe – before being submitted 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 authority it has before reviewing the process of formal approval.
The CDC said that this month they should be ready to receive a coronavirus vaccine as early as November 1 – two days before the election – which received criticism from critics that the date was politically motivated. Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.), A senior Democrat on the House committee, accused the administration of “violent political interference in scientific decision-making.”
Redfield pushed back against such proposals during an appearance Wednesday before a Senate subcommittee with jurisdiction over the Department of Health and Human Services, of which the CDC is a part. He said the advice to the states was based on the pace of science, not on election considerations. And he said his agency was eager to avoid a recurrence of a problem that arose during a 2009 H1N1 virus pandemic when a vaccine became available and states were not ready to receive and distribute it.
“We do not want to repeat that hiccup,” Redfield told senators.
He also said the government does not have an estimated $ 6 billion it needs to distribute a coronavirus vaccine. Such funds were proposed in pandemic legislation, which Congress has not passed, amid biased disputes over how much more help the government should provide for laid-off workers and a number of other purposes.
Delivering that money, Redfield said, “is as urgent as getting the production facilities up.”