Roughly 20 million people could be vaccinated against the coronavirus in December, the chief of the Donald Trump administration’s vaccine coordination program said today. Anywhere from 25 to 30 million people could be vaccinated each month afterward. The speed depends on a big ‘if’ – the US Food and Drug Administration’s emergency use authorization for one or more vaccines.
“And as of the month of February or March, if we have more vaccines approved such as the live vector vaccine, we may be able to immunize a large number of Americans on an ongoing basis,” Moncef Slaoui, chief advisor, Operation Warp Speed (OWS), said during comments at the White House Rose Garden Friday evening.
OWS is the Trump administration’s national program to accelerate the development, manufacturing, and distribution of Covid-19 vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics.
Slaoui’s comments come at an anxious time in America’s coronavirus chronicles. More than 244,000 are dead, more than 10.6 million are infected and daily cases are going off the charts. More than 100,000 daily cases have been reported in the last 10 days alone. Thanksgiving is around the corner and hospitals are running out of space.
Slaoui’s remarks point in the direction of how America might begin to turn the corner later this year.
The US is working with a portfolio of six vaccines, using three different platform technologies and two candidates from each platform: messenger RNA, live viral vectors and recombinant protein.
Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines use the messenger RNA platform, Johnson and Johnson and AstraZeneca in partnership with Oxford University are on the live vector path while Novavax and Sanofi/ GlaxoSmithKline are building out their vaccine candidates on the recombinant protein platform.
Pfizer did not subsume its efforts under Trump’s Operation Warp Speed initiative. In March, which is well before OWS was announced, Pfizer partnered with the vaccine’s original developer, Germany’s BioNTech and began the first of many studies, in Germany.
Pfizer did, however, sign a $1.95 billion agreement to supply 100 million doses to the U.S. government if the vaccine gets FDA clearance.
All six vaccines are in the “clinical development stage” and four of them are in Phase Three trials.
One of them – Pfizer – announced Monday that it has achieved 90 per cent efficacy, “demonstrating that vaccination is possible against Covid-19, that the kind of choices we have made in terms of the antigen selected was effective and made us optimistic that other vaccines may also be effective,” Slaoui said.
Slaoui said he expects to hear “very good information” from Moderna too, echoing optimism from Dr. Anthony Fauci earlier this week.
“I would like to take this opportunity to invite as many Americans as possible who would like to volunteer to participate in these clinical trials, as that’s the only way we are able to achieve a demonstration of the safety and efficacy of these vaccines.”
The last two vaccines – on the recombinant protein platform – plan to start their Phase Three trials within the next few weeks.
Slaoui said the US is ready with manufacturing capability to ramp up production as soon as any vaccine candidate demonstrates clinical efficacy and gets emergency use authorisation from the US Food and Drug Administration.