Former top federal vaccine official Rick Bright warned Thursday that projections of a coronavirus vaccine available in 12 to 18 months may be overly optimistic during testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health.
The frequently cited 12- to 18-month time frame, Bright said, involves a best-case scenario, and “we’ve never seen everything go perfectly.”
“My concern is if we rush too quickly and consider cutting out critical steps, we may not have a full assessment of the safety of that vaccine,” he said. "I still think 12 to 18 months is an aggressive schedule and it’s going to take longer than that to do so.”
“It’s critical to note that when we say 12 to 18 months, that doesn’t mean for an FDA-approved vaccine, it means to have sufficient data and information on the safety and immunogenicity, if not efficacy, to be able to use on an emergency basis, and that is the consideration we have in mind when we talk about an accelerated timeline,” he added.
Dr. Rick Bright on vaccine timeline:— MSNBC (@MSNBC) May 14, 2020
“A lot of optimism is swirling around a 12-18 month timeframe, if everything goes perfectly. We’ve never seen everything go perfectly ... I still think 12-18 months is an aggressive schedule, and I think it’s going to take longer than that.” pic.twitter.com/ORIo4yoeBk
Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) voiced concerns that even once a vaccine was approved, it would run into similar issues as testing involving unequal access.
Bright said he agreed, warning of a scenario in which “we have limited doses and we haven't scaled up production and we don't have a plan and how to fairly and equitably distribute that drug.”
“If you can imagine this scenario this fall or winter maybe even early next spring when a vaccine becomes available. There's no one company that can produce enough for our country or for the world. It's going to be a limited supply.”
The federal government needs “to have a strategy and plan in place now to make sure that we can not only find that vaccine, make it and distribute it, but administer it in a fair and equitable plan,” he added, saying it was a “significant concern” that no such strategy currently exists.