As manufacturers worldwide race to develop the first viable COVID-19 vaccine faster than any vaccine ever developed in human history, late November remains an important date in the United States to vaccinate a large number of Americans.
Colder weather leading into October and November will lead more of us indoors, hampering social distancing and providing new challenges to new social distancing practices in restaurants.
And of course, Thanksgiving occurring on the third Thursday each November is the busiest time to travel each year.
In 2019, AAA estimated 49.3 million automobile travelers, 4.45 million by plane, and 1.49 million by trains, buses, and cruise ships. Each category showed growth over the previous year.
It's unclear what we'll see in 2020 with travelers more or less hesitant to follow this annual ritual. However, currently forecasted COVID-19 vaccine timelines hint at the ambitious possibility that some of us may be vaccinated by then.
Last week, we covered a set of manufacturers on the early end of this timeline. Some of whom are promising results so early, they are already producing the vaccine ahead of safety trial completion, let alone government approval. The crowded competition for the vaccine has spurred fears of adequate glass in the supply chain for the vials in which vaccines are traditionally delivered.
If a domestic manufacturer proves successful before November, Pfizer's October vaccine is the likely candidate. When we spoke with the company earlier this month, a representative who confirmed October remains feasible but is contingent on successful aquisition of an Emergency Use Declaration. Should the company meet this goal, 100 million doses would be available ahead of Thanksgiving.
While it's possible we'd see significant doses available from companies abroad, the 100 million figure, roughly 1/3 the population of the United States is larger than the low 25% of Americans polled who said they would accept the vaccine at all.
Despite the unusual pace, how can we be sure the approval process will be expedited to meet Pfizer and others' ambitious timelines? Enter "Operation Warp Speed" (OWS), the Department of Defense's Department of Health and Human Services' effort to take out the red tape. According to defense.gov in an article published today:
The national effort to accelerate the development, manufacturing and distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine, called "Operation Warp Speed," will hasten the delivery of that vaccine by conducting steps concurrently that normally would be conducted sequentially
The program hopes to begin production of select manufacturers' vaccines in parallel to clinical trials. Under the program, the same checks and approvals as in traditional vaccine pipelines remains, but the delivery is boosted by this unusually concentric approach.
"We expect to be producing large quantities of vaccines while the clinical trials are still underway," one official said. "That is, when safety and efficacy have been demonstrated, there isn't a day's delay due to manufacturing ramp-up timelines. We will still complete all of the necessary clinical trials to determine safety and efficacy."
The 14 vaccine candidates to which the program lays claim will be selected down to just seven candidates, of which only a few will move on to final trials and testing. Early communication for OWS indicated a vaccine may be yielded before the end of 2020. However, the most recent communication from the above article omitted dates and communications from last month seemed to shy away from the 2020 timeline altogether.
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