It seems the latest pandemic news is revolving around the production of a COVID-19 vaccine. Now that several groups worldwide have entered Phase 3 clinical trials, we at VOYCE thought it was a good time for some updates! Here’s a discussion of what we know right now.
What to Expect
First things first: don’t expect a safe, effective vaccine to appear in the next couple of weeks. It’s simply not realistic. That said, experts seem to disagree about when, exactly, a vaccine may be made available (if all goes well). According to this recent article in STAT, some see a realistic chance that a product will be available before the close of Phase 3 trials – by this fall if certain conditions are met.
Note: per the article, no vaccine can be fully approved by the FDA without one or more years of safety data for a minimum of 3,000 patients, so anything sooner would rely on an emergency use authorization. However, it is possible to stop Phase 3 trials if there is enough clear evidence that the vaccine is ready.
Yet in an NPR report from this week, other high-ranking experts in vaccine development call the idea of a fall timeline “not impossible” but “super optimistic” considering that most vaccines take “…typically a years-long process to develop…” This brings some perspective to the CDC’s request to states to develop a distribution plan by October – it’s a best-case, hopeful request, but gathering enough safety and efficacy evidence is the priority.
Trials to Watch
So who are these groups with promising vaccines in Phase 3? There are many companies working on this project, but National Geographic has laid out the trials to watch. The highlighted trials based in the United States include:
- The COVE Study, a collaboration between Moderna and the National Institutes of Health – this trial entered the third clinical trial stage in late July. Its Phase 1 results show COVID-19 antibodies and other immune responses. Moderna has specifically mentioned evidence of success for older adults. The group plans to test 30,000 individuals in the United States.
- A combined Phase 2 and Phase 3 trial from Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech, also started in late July, will test their vaccine on 30,000 individuals from Brazil, Argentina, Germany, and the U.S. The earlier phases of this trial also showed a COVID-19 antibody and other immune responses.
Distribution of a Vaccine
A final note on distributing vaccines: unfortunately, it’s not very likely that the world will have enough vaccines to give everyone at once. The medical community will need to make a list of priorities for those who will get the first available doses. The National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine has responded with a draft framework for prioritizing vaccinations. You can read the entire document, including the things considered when deciding phases of distribution; a graph summarizing the draft can be found on page 52.
VOYCE participated in a hearing and expressed how the final draft of the framework can better serve long-term care residents. Read VOYCE’s official comments to the development committee, which were submitted on September 4, 2020.
What the Future Holds
As for what lies ahead for older adults when a vaccine is ready to use? We know that populations living in long-term care – older adults and those who are ill – already have a harder time fighting diseases like COVID-19. Kaiser Health News predicted what life might look like in the future for at-risk groups – from the way we visit doctors to where we vacation, things will likely look very different!