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Preparing for vaccine not the same as having one by November

Posted at 6:21 PM, Sep 04, 2020

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — This week, the CDC asked governors across the nation to make plans now to distribute a vaccine in November.

Dr. Ali Khan, Dean of College of Public Health at UNMC said there is a difference between having a vaccine and preparing for a vaccine.

“It’s extremely unlikely we will have a licensed vaccine as early as October or November,” Dr. Khan said. “CDC is doing exactly what it needs to be doing which is working with state and local health departments to make sure they are prepared to distribute a vaccine. It’s very complex given how many people we are going to try to vaccinate in the United States around allocation, distribution, where the vaccines are going to be given.”

Right now, we have three vaccine trials in the third phase in the United States. Phase three is when thousands of volunteers get vaccinated so researchers can compare reactions, see if it’s effective, and what the most common side effects are.

“The trials going on in the U.S. right now are about 30,000 people in each one,” Dr. David Quinby of CHI Infectious Diseases said. “That’s 15,000 get vaccine, 15,000 get the dummy and they see what happens over time. If you get equal number of infections in people who got the vaccine versus the placebo, the vaccine doesn’t work even if you have whatever blood markets they were looking for, it didn’t prevent disease.”

Trials take many months. Dr. Khan said we could start seeing early reporting in October.

“We can rush all sorts of parts in operation warp speed,” Dr. Khan said. “Put lots of money into manufacturing, do multiple studies at the same time, make sure the regulators are there but you cannot rush the efficacy and safety part. That just takes time and you have to wait for that, and you have to wait to get enough people who have had the vaccine to prove those things.”

If early reports show a vaccine is excellent, both doctors agree the FDA may allow Emergency Use Authorization yet this year, like they did with Remdesivir.

“ They are actually pre-making several vaccines now in case one pans out,” Dr. Quinby said. “If one doesn’t pan out all that’s wasted but you had it ready if you needed it.”

If local and state health departments start preparing now for distribution, we’ll be ready when a vaccine is approved.

“We should expect multiple distribution sites, public, private, nonprofit across our communities,” Dr. Khan said.

The first vaccines will be given to high priority groups like healthcare and essential workers. There won't be enough for everyone right away.

Dr. Khan urges people to get the flu shot this fall. He said it's safe and getting the flu vaccine can help make sure our hospitals aren't overwhelmed with COVID-19 and flu patients at the same time.