Story at a glance
- In a PBS interview, Anthony Fauci discussed the availability timeline of the COVID-19 vaccine.
- He noted that select groups will be prioritized for the first doses.
Following promising vaccine efficacy results from at least three major drug manufacturers, namely Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca, the end of the COVID-19 pandemic — or perhaps the serious abatement of it — seems near.
With Pfizer leading the pack by formally submitting its vaccine candidate for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Emergency Use Authorization, public health officials estimate that if the application is approved, a vaccine might be ready as early as December.
In an interview with PBS, Anthony Fauci, the lead infectious disease expert on the White House Coronavirus Task Force, said that this timeline is feasible provided Pfizer’s drug gets approved.
“We project that it is very likely that we will have vaccine doses in people's arms in December. The projection is that there will be 40 million doses for 20 million people,” he said.
Clarifying initial doses will be ready by mid- to late December, Fauci acknowledged the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) plan to distribute the first vaccine doses to at-risk groups.
A group within the CDC, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, will be in charge of evaluating who should receive the first available doses. Some of the demographics most likely to be prioritized for immunization include health care and essential workers, elderly people and people with underlying medical conditions.
For individuals outside of these groups, a vaccine is more likely to be available in early 2021.
“As we get into January, February and March, that will increase incrementally, so that, hopefully, by the time you get into the middle towards the end of the first quarter of 2021, you will have accounted for and vaccinated those who are in the higher priority groups, according to the recommendation of the CDC, so that, as you get into April and then May, you can really, in earnest, start to get the broader general population vaccinated,” Fauci added.
He urged states to have confidence in an FDA-approved vaccine despite the lack of federal leadership throughout the pandemic, primarily because the data has been evaluated by an independent group of experts, including scientists, vaccinologists, ethicists and statisticians.
“The process of the decision of whether or not a vaccine is safe and effective, that is made by a completely independent group, not by the federal government, not by the company [that created the vaccine],” Fauci said.