COVID-19: Here’s How Close Companies Are to Developing a Vaccine

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Getty Trump definitively said American companies would have a vaccine ready by the end of the year.

With fall and winter holidays quickly approaching, many Americans are anxiously hoping a coronavirus vaccine will bring a semblance of normalcy to 2021 or even the end of 2020.

But where is the country when it comes to finding the vaccine for a virus that has killed more than 230,000 Americans, according to Johns Hopkins University?

Here’s what you need to know.

Here’s How Many Vaccines Are in Later Testing Stages

Phase III vaccine trials, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), involve giving thousands of people a vaccine and monitoring their progress for efficiency and safety, including unwanted side effects. Worldwide, there are 11 vaccines in the Phase III trial of testing, according to a list from the The New York Times.

If a vaccine passes Phase III without evidence of significant issues, the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) can approve it for use; On June 30, the FDA issued a press release noting that the vaccine must prevent disease or decrease disease severity in 50% or more of those vaccinated. Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research Director Peter Marks was quoted in the release as saying, “In this particular crisis in which there is so much at stake, we need to help expedite vaccine development as much as we can without sacrificing our standards for quality, safety, and efficacy.”

Companies that The Times reported are in the process of testing vaccines at the Phase III stage include the following:

  • Moderna and the National Institutes of Health
  • BioNTech, Pfizer and Fosun Pharma
  • CanSino Biologics and China’s Academy of Military Medical Sciences
  • The Russian Ministry of Health’s Gamaleya Research Institute
  • Johnson & Johnson with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
  • AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford
  • Maryland-based company Novavax
  • The Wuhan Institute of Biological Products and Sinopharm
  • Sinopharm and the Beijing Institute of Biological Products
  • Chinese company Sinovac Biotech
  • The Indian Council of Medical Research, National Institute of Virology and Indian company Bharat Biotech
  • Australia’s Murdoc Children’s Research Institute

Some of the most promising results — and biggest deals — have come from the Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca potential vaccines. AstraZeneca, as it announced, has promised to deliver 400 million doses to the European Union if it receives FDA approval. The government has provided $1 billion in support of the Moderna vaccine’s development, The Times reported. Johnson & Johnson received $456 million from the U.S. government to support its research, has been promised $1 billion for 100 million doses if it receives FDA approval and the European Union also agreed to pay a large sum for at least 200 million doses.

All of the vaccines “approved” in countries outside the U.S. have been considered suspect by experts because those drugs either skipped Phase III trials, have been prematurely approved or have decided to do the trials at the same time the vaccines are available for public use, the Times reported. Others, such as the two Sinopharm vaccines as well as the Sinovac vaccine, have been approved for early limited use in specific countries.

Trump Has Promised a Vaccine by the End of the Year

During his speech at the Republican National Convention, Trump said that under his administration, a vaccine would be produced “before the end of the year, or maybe even sooner.”

Trump did not promise to have a vaccine by Election Day (November 3), as some news outlets (such as Newsweek) have reported, according to fact-checkers at Snopes; instead, he speculated that one could be approved before Election Day. White House strategic communications director Alyssa Farah described that day as “kind of an arbitrary deadline,” Politico reported.

Multiple vaccine-makers pledged to abide by all safety measures during the vaccine testing and development process, in response to fears that Trump’s rhetoric would imply a rushed vetting process, Politico reported.

Trump has said, however, that he would not make the vaccine mandatory, telling a Fox News host, “Well, I’d get it to essential workers and older people. I don’t believe I’d ever do a mandated vaccine. Because I just don’t think I will — would be in — I just don’t think I would do that, where you have to have it. Because there are some people feel very strongly about that whole situation.” Real Clear Politics reported.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the Trump administration announced a rule that it was proposing to provide increased Medicare payments for COVID-19 therapies and drugs that have received “emergency use authorization.” This rule bolsters information from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed in March, which required FDA-approved coronavirus vaccines to be free.

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