Those of us who are pinning our hopes on a return to “normal” COVID-19 vaccine may have to wait until the end of next year, said Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), testified to lawmakers in his Congress today.
Although a COVID-19 vaccine could be available in limited quantities by the end of the year, Dr. Redifield that it probably won’t be widespread until next spring or summer, reports NPR. So for now, a mask is still “the most important and powerful public health tool we have,” he said. “I could even go so far as to say that this face mask protects me more from COVID than if I take a COVID vaccine.”
Pharmaceutical companies need time to develop, test and commercialize a new vaccine, SELF previously explained. And while they are currently developing many vaccines around the world, having the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approve a vaccine by the end of the year is still a best case scenario.
Even after the FDA approves a vaccine, the vaccine won’t be immediately available to everyone. The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) is already working to determine which groups should receive the vaccine first. These likely include healthcare workers, those with underlying medical conditions that make them susceptible to severe COVID-19 complications, and certain racial groups who are still disproportionately affected by the coronavirus. As Dr. Redfield said a safe and effective vaccine is unlikely to become available to the public until later in 2021.
As Dr. Redfield notes, even an FDA-cleared vaccine is unlikely to offer 100% protection against the coronavirus. Currently, we don’t know how effective it would or won’t be, but the FDA says it would consider approving a vaccine that will protect or reduce the severity of COVID-19 in at least 50% of the people who receive it.
While we wait, it is important to remember that we already have effective means to prevent the spread of COVID-19. These include public health strategies like wearing a mask, social distancing, and frequent hand washing. Even if we have a vaccine, the need to maintain these behaviors won’t go away overnight, SELF previously explained. And as we near fall, remember that Dr. Redfield previously urged the public to get a flu shot to ease the burden of the flu on the medical system.