NIH Director preaches patience on when Americans can get COVID-19 vaccine

President Donald Trump today touted a vaccine would ship within weeks to help the vulnerable population - even as the U.S. continues to grapple with a record milestone of deaths and cases related to the virus.

Trump claimed the vaccine would be sent out before the year’s end even as the FDA has not been asked to grant the necessary emergency approvals, according to an AP story. The President says he thinks a vaccine could be distributed to front-line workers in a matter of weeks and reach the general population as soon as April.

The reality, however, might be a little different. That's because while the news on the Pfizer vaccine is very promising, there still is no finalized vaccine that's been reviewed and approved for broad use, then there's the challenges of mass producing a vaccine and starting to distribute it. Pfizer recently announced its COVID-19 vaccine is 90 percent effective.

To date, the United States has seen more than 10 million cases and more than 242,000 deaths so far, according to the CDC.

Dr. Francis Collins, physician-geneticist and director of the National Institutes of Health, joined KNX In-Depth Friday afternoon to talk about the reality of a timeline for a vaccine candidate, caution over the vaccine process, the holidays and on people taking the actual vaccine when it does come out.

“It’s pretty amazing we are having that conversation this close to what might be an emergency use approval of one or more of these vaccines given that generally that is a five, six, seven, eight year effort and we only learned about this virus back in January. So the scientific community has pulled together in really remarkable ways,” he says.

Collins says it is “gratifying to see Pfizer was able to announce that in the first look at the data in their trial of some 44,000 participants, the vaccine appears to really have a higher efficacy rate.”

Collins also mentioned Moderna “which is the one which is right behind them and which has also made an announcement that it’s time for their first look at the data so in the next few days we will likely to hear how that turns out.”

But he cautioned saying  “let’s be realistic here.”

“This will still need to go through the FDA review process. It hasn’t even been submitted yet to the FDA. Pfizer is going to do that fairly soon. FDA will need to be convinced of not only is it effective but it’s also safe which means looking at least two months’ worth of data from the trial to see if anybody had any side effects that weren’t expected. And if all goes well, it seems as if we might see doses beginning to be available in late November, early December but there will not be enough doses for everybody on Day 1,” he says.

He also tackled the April time range Trump touted today for widespread distribution of the vaccine.

“It will depend on how many of the current vaccines actually do turn out to be safe and effective,” he said adding there are four other vaccines too.

He cautioned “let’s be careful about this.”

He said “somewhere between April and June is when we might expect to get to the point of having sufficient doses for most people who want them.”

Collins also discussed the prospect of people taking the vaccine eventually.

California has surpassed the 1 million confirmed coronavirus cases milestone this week. Just today, Gov. Newsom and other western state governors issued travel advisories regarding visitors entering their states and residents returning home.

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