As Moderna’s experimental vaccine for COVID-19 continues to show promise in early testing, the next big question is if the drug does prove to be effective, who’s going to get it? Moderna’s CEO Stephane Bancel said Monday that no one pharmaceutical company can expect to make enough doses of any vaccine to stop the coronavirus epidemic. That means someone will need to establish a chain of priority about who gets inoculated.
According to Newsmax, Bancel said that “no manufacturer can make enough doses for the entire planet, but if several vaccines have a chance to get approval, we have a chance to significantly impact the reduction of infection in disease and go back to a normal life.”
According to USA Today, rolling out a vaccine and having enough to protect Americans may be a slow process. There needs to be a carefully crafted plan to determine who will be immunized. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) has been at the helm of that decision-making process since 1964. It’s been already working on a plan for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
“We’re starting as early as we can to deal with the torrent of data that’s coming out,” said Dr. Grace Lee, professor of pediatrics at Stanford University and a member of ACIP, according to USA Today. “We don’t want to wait until the vaccine becomes available and begin our deliberations then.”
President Donald Trump announced the formation of Operation Warp Speed on Friday to help speed the development and distribution of a vaccine to conquer the virus.
In the meantime, vaccine experts are deliberating over the most effective ways to distribute the vaccine when it is developed. ACIP has posted guidelines on its website on how it plans to conduct the process.
Dr. Arthur Reingold, division head of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of California who is an internationally known expert in infectious disease, told USA Today that health care providers, first responders, the military, political leaders, senior citizens, pregnant women and children are usually at the head of the list to get vaccinated.
Sometimes, experts choose to vaccinate in areas where the virus is running rampant to lower the transmission rates, according to USA Today.
Interestingly, in 2004, when there was a shortage of flu vaccine, the elderly refused to be inoculated. They said they wanted their grandchildren to get the vaccine, said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert from Vanderbilt University in Tennessee.
After health care workers and first responders get the vaccine, Schaffner told USA Today, people should receive it on a first-come, first-served basis.
“Vaccine left in the refrigerator never protected anyone from anything,” he said.
According to Wired, decision makers may decide to give the vaccine to young, healthy people who have the strongest immune response in order to create a herd immunity. It’s well known that older folks don’t respond as well to the seasonal influenza virus as younger people do, and a COVID-19 vaccine could illicit a similar response.
Other experts say that we need multiple versions of the vaccine to address not only the sheer volume needed globally but to effectively target specific age groups and populations, said Wired.
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