In a radio interview Thursday morning with Fox News correspondent Geraldo Rivera, President Donald Trump suggested that a vaccine for the coronavirus could be ready before Election Day.
When asked by Rivera when a vaccine would be ready, Trump replied it “could be much sooner” than the end of the year. “Sooner than November 3?” Rivera followed up. “I think in some cases, yes possible before, but right around that time,” the President said.
Later in the day, Trump told reporters that he was “optimistic” that a vaccine would be ready around November 3 and noted that while “It wouldn’t hurt” his chances for reelection, he was doing it “to save a lot of lives.”
Facts First: It’s possible that a vaccine could be approved by the Food and Drug Administration at some point in November, but there is obviously no firm timeline or guarantee that one will be. And even when one is approved, it will likely still be many months before it’s widely available across the US.
A vaccine developed by the biotechnology company Moderna and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) is in the final phase of its clinical trial. Initial results from phase 1 of that vaccine were promising, showing immune responses and, for more than half the patients, normal side effects like fatigue and headaches.
You can read more about the vaccine here. Several other vaccines have also entered the final clinical phase.
In interviews last month, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Director of NIAID, made clear that while a vaccine could be approved by or possibly before November, it would likely not be available widely until “several months” into 2021.
“I think as we get into 2021, several months in, that you would have [a] vaccine that would be widely available to people in the United States,” Fauci told The Washington Post’s Bob Costa during a Post Live event on July 24.
Moderna has said that if the vaccine is approved by the FDA the company could produce at least 500 million and up to a billion doses in the fiscal year of 2021.
According to Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health, and Fauci’s boss, tens of millions of vaccine doses could be available at the outset if the Moderna vaccine is approved later this year. This is primarily because the US is already producing these unapproved vaccines in order to be prepared if and when they are approved.
“We are literally making the commercial scale vaccine now, as we’re going through the clinical trials,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told CNBC on July 22. “We’re doing that at-risk, using the full power of the US government and our financial resources to do that. No one’s ever done this before.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices is already considering who should get initial vaccines – such as frontline workers and at-risk populations. The CDC has also asked for outside input from the National Academy of Medicine.
The administration is working on securing syringe supplies, glassware and syringes to administer vaccine doses across the US as well as an ad campaign to build trust and demand.
You can read more about those efforts here.
Nothing is certain, and Trump’s optimism might be crushed in the coming months. Some experts warn against throwing out specific dates and timelines.
“I think it’s very dangerous at this point to give specific dates,” former Surgeon Gen. Dr. Vivek Murthy told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer Thursday, noting that safety and an effective vaccine remain the priority.
Collins concurred, telling Blitzer on the same evening that “sooner would be better, but it’s not going to get tied to any other timetables, other than making sure we’ve got something that work and it’s safe.”