In an interview with Fox News on Tuesday, Centers for Disease Control director Robert Redfield said a coronavirus vaccine may be ready for distribution to vulnerable Americans, such as nursing-home residents, as early as “the end of the second week in December.”
Redfield said the first dose of the vaccine would be distributed in a “hierarchical way,” with first consideration given to “nursing-home residents and then some combination of health-care providers and individuals at high risk for a poor outcome.” He added that he expects to have “about 40 million doses of vaccine” before the end of the year, a first round that will be “enough to vaccinate 20 million people. But then it will continue through January and February, and hopefully by March we’ll start to see vaccines available for the general public.” Public-health experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci have been anticipating an April timeline for a general public rollout of a vaccine.
Although Redfield didn’t detail which vaccine candidate would be put into development for the December batch of doses, the Food and Drug Administration does have a December 10 meeting scheduled for its Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee to weigh Pfizer’s application for emergency-use authorization of its vaccine. Two weeks ago, the pharmaceutical giant claimed its product protects 95 percent of patients from COVID transmission. Moderna also has a vaccine candidate, determined to be 94.5 percent effective in late-stage trials, while AstraZeneca and Oxford University have produced a vaccine candidate that is 90 percent effective but does not require medical-grade refrigeration and is estimated to cost $2.50 a dose.
On Tuesday, other public-health officials provided more detail on the vaccine production ramping up in the coming weeks. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said that the initial doling out of vaccines to the states would be based on population, and would not take into account which states are currently being hit the hardest, as the CDC had previously planned. “We thought that would be the fairest approach, the most consistent,” he explained. Army General Gus Perna, the chief operating officer of Operation Warp Speed, said that the federal government would distribute 6.4 million doses of the vaccine in the first push in December.
With a vaccine around the corner of a dark pandemic winter, Redfield encouraged Americans to be “vigilant” and said, “You don’t want to be the last group to end up getting COVID.” That doesn’t appear to be an immediate concern for those who have recently tested positive: The U.S. has recorded over 100,000 new cases each day for the past three weeks.