Story at a glance

  • The WHO warned that a COVID-19 vaccine is still far from being available on global markets.
  • Anthony Fauci has echoed similar sentiments.

As the world hinges its hopes on returning to a semblance of normality with the development of a coronavirus vaccine, officials warn that scientists still have a long way to go, no matter the current results or how far along in trials candidates may be.

In a virtual Q&A discussion, Mike Ryan, the executive director of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) emergencies program told NBC’s Lester Holt that just because a potential treatment is in the clinical stage of phase three does not signal it is ready for distribution.

“Phase three doesn’t mean nearly there,” Ryan explained. “Phase three means this is the first time this vaccine has been put into the general population into otherwise healthy individuals to see if the vaccine will protect them against natural infection.”


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Developing a successful COVID-19 vaccine has been paramount in both the scientific and political community since the onset of the pandemic. Given both the recession and public health crisis brought on by the virus shutdowns, President Trump launched Operation Warp Speed, which gave billions in federal funding to drug companies who are researching and manufacturing treatments for COVID-19. 

Two of the pharmaceutical companies who received this funding, Pfizer and Moderna, are in clinical phase three human trials, according to Ryan. Another recipient, Novavax, recently made headlines when its vaccine candidate showed positive signs of producing antibodies to potentially fight the coronavirus.

Still, Ryan said that all vaccines have focused on safety and efficacy at this point. “They are sort of gates that the vaccine has to go through,” he explained. “This is not a gate. It is a race for the vaccine now to demonstrate that it can protect larges [sic] numbers of people.”

The WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus commented, adding that there is no guarantee that a vaccine will be developed.

“We cannot say we have vaccines. We may or may not.”

Similar stances have been echoed by Anthony Fauci, the lead scientist on the White House Coronavirus Task Force and head of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases. 

In late June, Fauci said that he is “cautiously optimistic” a vaccine will be ready by late 2020 or early 2021 but agreed that there is no guarantee for a safe and effective vaccine. 

In opposition to the statements made by Fauci and Tedros is President Trump’s recent claim that a vaccine could be ready “right around” Election Day in early November. 


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Published on Aug 06, 2020