STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Testifying before a senate committee Wednesday, United States health officials said they believed a coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine would be ready for wide distribution by spring, 2021.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said it is possible there are 50 million doses available by November, 100-plus million available by December and about 700 million available by January.
Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reaffirmed this timeline to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, saying, “We will have the 700 million doses based on projection by late March, early April.”
Fauci explained that the vaccine will not be available “to a large proportion” of the population initially, and that it is likely that health care professionals and those with underlying conditions would be the first to receive immunization, once it is proved to be safe and effective.
Assistant Secretary For Health Dr. Brett Giroir and Dr. Stephen Hahn, the director of the Food and Drug Administration also joined Fauci and Redfield at the testimony, just a day after the United States crossed the grim threshold of 200,000 COVID-19-related deaths.
Four separate drug companies have now entered late-stage trials in the hunt for a coronavirus vaccine, though one — AstraZeneca — temporarily stopped its trials after reports of a patient experiencing a negative reaction.
All four members expressed their confidence in the FDA’s approval process.
During the testimony, Hahn pushed back against suggestions that approval of a vaccine would be determined by political actions, adding that the determining of any vaccine’s efficacy would be a scientific decision.
“I will fight for science. I will fight for the integrity of the agency,” Hahn said.
Both Fauci and Redfield also made clear that following public health guidelines concerning mask wearing, hand washing and social distancing are all vital to combatting the spread of the virus — regardless of a vaccine’s approval.
“We feel strongly that if we have a combination of adherence to the public health measures together with a vaccine … we may be able to turn around this terrible pandemic which we have been experiencing,” Fauci said.