On the heels of Russia’s questionably early commencement of public production of the COVID-19 vaccine, leading SARS-CoV-2 vaccine manufacturers are quickly approaching the Thanksgiving vaccine moment.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports Bay Area subjects were enrolled in vaccine trials just last week. Subjects will be given the vaccine to help scientists understand if the vaccine will be effective.
The difficulty in distributing an effective vaccine is compounded by an apparent reluctancy to even accept a working vaccine due to the spread of anti vaccine misinformation online. Polls state between 1 of 4 to 1 of 3 Americans admit they will refuse a vaccine. For those waiting patiently for a vaccine, there is a problem of a very different nature: unrealistic expectations.
According to the Chronicle, UCSF epidemiologist and global health expert Richard Feachem says, "There's a tendency to get into this 'waiting for a vaccine syndrome,' where we think we can muddle through the winter and then sometime in 2021 a vaccine will come and save the day, but that's not likely."
The number of individuals who would need to receive a vaccine to achieve theoretical thresholds for herd immunity is part of the journey. Feachem stated, "California is not safe until the U.S. is safe, and the U.S. is not safe until the world is safe. We're all in this together, we all sink or we all swim."
Companies like Pfizer are estimating 100 million doses of their vaccine will be available this October, pending emergency use authorization. More conservative estimates pin early 2021 as the key date for widespread vaccine availability.
Experts like Anthony Fauci warn the first wave of vaccines may not even provide long-term immunity. During an interview with JAMA Editor Howard Bauchner, Fauci said “it likely isn’t going to be a long duration of immunity. When you look at the history of coronaviruses, the common coronaviruses that cause the common cold, the reports in the literature are that the durability of immunity that’s protective ranges from three to six months to almost always less than a year, That’s not a lot of durability and protection."
Other experts are joining in Fauci's concern including Dr. Paul Offit, the director of the Vaccine Education center at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and Anna Durbin, a vaccine researcher at Johns Hopkins University. Upon a recently announced timeline by Moderna Pharmaceuticals, Durbin expressed of their two-week wait period to measure results of antibody production, "That’s very early. We don’t know if those antibodies are durable..."
Effectiveness aside, the proper distribution of the vaccine will require an unprecedented manufacturing estimate. For this reason, some of the leading manufacturers have already begun to produce their vaccine despite ongoing tests. With financial support from the U.S. Department of Defense's "Operation Warp Speed," these manufacturers are essentially betting on their vaccines coming out a success prior to commencement of distribution.