Q. Please provide an update on where in the process of creating a vaccine we are, and what are the plans for distribution when it becomes available?
A. Vaccines normally require years of research and testing before entering clinical trials, but scientists are pushing to produce a safe, effective coronavirus vaccine by early 2021. Researchers are currently testing 44 vaccines in human clinical trials, according to the New York Times’ vaccine tracker.
Briefly, here are the stages of producing a vaccine: preclinical testing, where the vaccine is tested on cells and then animals; Phase 1 safety trials, where the vaccine is given to a small number of people; Phase 2 expanded trials, where the vaccine is given to hundreds of people split into groups; Phase 3 efficacy trials, where thousands of people receive the vaccine to see if they become infected, compared to volunteers who receive a placebo. These trials determine if the vaccine protects against the coronavirus. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has said that a vaccine must protect 50% of vaccinated people to be effective. The final stage is approval, where trial results are reviewed; in the case of the coronavirus pandemic, a vaccine could receive emergency approval before getting formal approval.
In the U.S., there are currently four vaccines in Phase 3 testing, according to the Times’ vaccine tracker, taking different approaches to combatting the coronavirus. The companies involved are Moderna, in partnership with the National Institutes of Health; Pfizer, partnered with BioNTech and Fosun Pharma; Johnson & Johnson, in partnership with Beth Israel Lahey Health; and Novovax.
In Connecticut, Gov. Ned Lamont has named a task force to report on the logistics of vaccine distribution when one becomes available. The co-chairs of the panel are Dr. Reginald Eadie, CEO of Trinity Health, and Dr. Deidre Gifford, acting commissioner of the state Department of Public Health. The focus of the task force, according to Eadie, is to make sure the vaccine is distributed fairly and correctly. More information on the task force can be found here.
The FDA on Oct. 6 told vaccine developers that they would have to provide at least two months of safety data after a full vaccine regiment to receive authorization for emergency use of a vaccine. The advice was released in advance of a meeting of an FDA expert panel later in October to discuss coronavirus vaccines under development.
The CDC has provided funding to Connecticut and other states to “refine and update vaccination plans in preparation for the upcoming COVID-19 vaccine program.”
A Pew Research Center poll found that the number of U.S. adults that say they would definitely get a vaccine if it were available today has declined by 21% since May. According to Pew, just 32% of Black adults say they’d get a vaccine, compared to 52% of white adults, 56% of Hispanics, and 72% of Asian-Americans.
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