Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Robert Redfield appeared in front of the Senate Health and Human Services subcommittee yesterday where he said that while a coronavirus vaccine could be available for the most vulnerable people by the end of the year, it won't be widely distributed to the public until about this time next year.
Redfield's assessment was probably accurate, but it was also sobering; too sobering for the Trump White House.
Redfield's testimony did not comport with Trump's magical thinking or the message of his campaign and so the White House is now in the position where they're saying the director of the CDC doesn't have all the facts.
When the hosts of “Fox and Friends” asked who was correct, [Chief of Staff Mark Meadows] claimed it was Trump “based on what I know behind the scenes, how quickly we’re moving on the clinical trials.”
“I think that we’ll at least have some results in October,” the White House senior official said. “And as we start to look at those results, I can tell you the President is pushing very hard to make sure that we’re delivering a vaccine before the end of the year.”
“So I’m not sure where Dr. Redfield got his particular timetable, but it’s not based on those that are closest to the process,” he added.
If the director of the CDC is not close to the process, isn't that a problem?
And if he isn't close, who is?
Presumably, the person closest to the process is coronavirus vaccine czar Moncef Slaoui and Slaoui himself has said it's "extremely unlikely" that a vaccine will be ready in October. Slaoui said that just two weeks ago during an interview with NPR in which he also said most people won't be vaccinated until next summer.
"There is a very, very low chance that the trials that are running as we speak" could be ready before the end of October, Slaoui said.
"And therefore, there could be — if all other conditions required for an Emergency Use Authorization are met — an approval. I think it's extremely unlikely but not impossible. And therefore, it's the right thing to do, to be prepared in case."
Slaoui said that he "firmly" believed a vaccine could be ready by the end of the year and that "we may have enough vaccine by the end of the year to immunize probably I would say between 20 [million] and 25 million people." He said immunizing the U.S. population as a whole would take until "the middle of 2021."
During his interview with Fox News this morning, Trump's chief of staff Mark Meadows claimed there would be up to 100 million doses of a vaccine ready next month, but vaccine trials may not even conclude by next month so that is, you know, logistically impossible and completely ridiculous. If anyone doesn't have all the facts, it's Mark Meadows.
Moderna could be the first out the door with a usable vaccine, but even they say it could only be approved for limited use on an emergency basis in the near future before a larger trial is complete.
"If the interim readout is deemed by the independent safety committee as positive with 70 or 80 or 90% efficacy, we will indeed consider approval," Stephane Bancel, Moderna's chief executive officer, said in a telephone interview.
"At such a level of efficacy, if we get there, we can protect a lot of lives in the people at the highest risk, and so, we will consider filing for an EUA for a very limited population," Bancel said.
He said the FDA will determine whether the benefit of the vaccine to a small group of high-risk individuals outweighs the risk of not having a full readout of safety data from all 30,000 study participants.
If the FDA approves a vaccine in October or November, it would only be available to health care workers and the elderly. The vast majority of people won't be vaccinated until next year like the CDC director and others have said.