A vaccine for COVID-19 appears to remain on schedule to be released by January 2021, but people determined to be "vulnerable," such as people in nursing homes, or "essential" frontline workers are expected to get their shots first, for free, with everyone else to get their vaccinations before flu season arrives next fall, according to Trump administration officials.
“Which populations are able and should receive a vaccine that is developed will depend on the results of clinical trials,” one official, speaking with others on the condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to speak publicly, said Tuesday, reports ABC News. "For any American who is vulnerable, who cannot afford the vaccine and desires the vaccine, we will provide it for free," another said.
U.S. officials said they estimate 20 million to 40 million people will be considered as a lower priority for getting the first round of vaccines, as they will already have antibodies to COVID-19.
Meanwhile, it will cost billions of taxpayer dollars to reach a goal of 300 million doses of the vaccine by next year, one of the officials said, but the investment "is to address a multi-trillion dollar challenge and opportunity."
The Department of Health and Human Services and the Defense Department has set an initiative, “Operation Warp Speed,” to develop the 300 million doses, but coming up with that many vaccines in such a short time could mean mass production of an unproven vaccine if it shows promise, and when that vaccine is proven safe and effective, it will go out for distribution. The officials said there are currently 14 promising candidates, with some already going through clinical trials with federal support with the goal of being narrowed down to 7 candidates.
Already, HHS has promised up to $1.2 billion to support a potential vaccine by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford to deliver at least 300 million doses of the vaccine for the United States. Approximately 30,000 Americans have volunteered for clinical testing, to start this summer.
The agency has also pledged $456 million to Johnson & Johnson, which plans to begin its first phase of clinical trials this summer, and $483 million for Moderna’s candidate vaccine, which already began its first trial phase in March.
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