How to Get a Covid-19 Vaccine to Everyone

How to Get a Covid-19 Vaccine to Everyone

A future without the persistent threat of the coronavirus depends on a vaccine. Developing one is absolutely necessary “to return to a semblance of previous normality,” wrote Francis Collins and Anthony Fauci of the U.S. National Institutes of Health in the journal Science on May 11.

A future without the persistent threat of the coronavirus depends on a vaccine. Developing one is absolutely necessary “to return to a semblance of previous normality,” wrote Francis Collins and Anthony Fauci of the U.S. National Institutes of Health in the journal Science on May 11.

With more than 100 vaccines in development and a handful of them already being tested in human volunteers, public health officials are cautiously optimistic that one could be available as early as next year. Biotech company Moderna announced last week that its experimental Covid-19 vaccine produced an immune response in healthy participants in an early stage trial, but it still has a lot to prove.

The success of a vaccine hinges not only on its ability to protect against Covid-19 infection but also on how it’s rolled out to the public. Operation Warp Speed, the ambitious plan to rapidly develop a vaccine unveiled by the Trump administration on May 15, could play a crucial role in curbing the coronavirus pandemic in the United States. It aims to produce hundreds of millions of doses for Americans by January 2021, but it doesn’t detail a plan for getting them to citizens.

An Experimental Coronavirus Vaccine Is Already Being Tested on People

But it still won’t be widely available for at least a year

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A huge number of people will need to receive a vaccine in order to stop the spread of the coronavirus and establish herd immunity — the point at which most of the population is protected against an infectious disease. To achieve herd immunity against Covid-19, experts estimate that around 70% or more of the population may need to be immune. And, since no vaccine is 100% effective, the more people who are vaccinated, the better. Getting a vaccine to all the people who need one will take a massive effort, both in the United States and around the world. There has never been a global immunization campaign on the scale that will be needed to distribute a Covid-19 vaccine.

If and when a vaccine does become available, there likely won’t be enough doses to give to everyone at once. That means governments will need to prioritize who gets it first.

“What it’s probably going to look like is a phased-in approach, with vaccines being rolled out to different target populations at a time,” says Maria Elena Bottazzi, associate dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine and co-director of Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development.

Health care workers are an obvious first priority, since doctors, nurses, paramedics, nursing home workers, and other frontline responders are at high risk of contracting Covid-19 from infected patients. Moderna said in March that its vaccine could be available to health care workers as soon as this fall. But that’s assuming a lot goes right. Though Moderna’s vaccine is one of the most advanced coronavirus vaccines in development, there’s no proof yet that it can protect people against infection if they’re exposed to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19.

vaccines health medicine science-and-medicine coronavirus data science

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