Well-Being Prevention & Cures

Coronavirus vaccine likely won’t be widely available until several months into 2021, former FDA chief says

Story at a glance

  • The FDA is likely to make a vaccine available first to different higher risk groups such as health care workers and older people with comorbidities through emergency use authorization.
  • The World Health Organization on Friday also said it doesn’t expect a COVID-19 vaccine to be widely available until mid-2021.
  • Several phase three trials of vaccine candidates are currently underway.

The former head of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says he doesn’t expect a COVID-19 vaccine to be widely available until the middle of next year, but higher risk groups will likely get access to the vaccine sooner. 

“In terms of having a vaccine available for broad distribution where you can actually go to your doctor’s office or go to a distribution site and get the vaccine … that’s clearly I think a 2021 event,” Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the FDA, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” Friday. 


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“I think it’s possible you see it in the first quarter of 2021, you know, maybe it’s more like the first half of 2021, but I think it’s possible that we’ll see a vaccine broadly available towards the end of the first quarter of 2021,” Gottlieb said.

He said the FDA is likely to make a vaccine available first to different high risk groups such as healthcare workers and older people with comorbidities through emergency use authorization. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday also said it doesn’t expect a COVID-19 vaccine to be widely available until mid-2021. The agency said as phase three trials are underway, it will take time for scientists to truly determine whether the vaccines are truly protective. 

“This phase three must take longer because we need to see how truly protective the vaccine is and we also need to see how safe it is,”  Margaret Harris, a WHO spokesperson, said during a U.N. meeting in Geneva. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week asked state governors to prepare for large-scale distribution of a vaccine by Nov. 1. 

Pfizer recently announced it could have results from late-stage trials showing whether or not its vaccine is safe and effective as early as October.

Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious diseases expert, said it’s possible a vaccine could be approved as soon as November or December, but said it is “unlikely” one could come out in October. 

Gottlieb is a member of the boards of Pfizer and biotech company Illumina.


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