The Status of the COVID-19 Vaccine — And What to Know About Vaccine Safety: Part II

Vaccine Safety and Development in a COVID-19 World

Vaccination remains our greatest source of hope during the current pandemic. However, the modern world is wrought with misinformation about vaccine safety and development. Here’s a look at projections for the COVID-19 vaccine’s progress and eventual release to the public. Spoiler: it won’t arrive nearly as soon as we’d hoped.

Factors Contributing to Vaccine Delays

While optimistic estimates suggest that a coronavirus vaccine could be fully tested and ready for use by late 2020, most experts believe that such a solution cannot be realistically applied en masse until several months into 2021. Initial tests on vaccines from Moderna and other providers are promising, but the potential for problematic side effects still looms large in the minds of worried researchers.

The pace of FDA approval must also be considered. Emergency authorization may be possible for high-risk individuals, but full approval could take far longer for the general population.

Even if manufacturers produce perfectly safe vaccines, supply and demand could get in the way. Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel explains, “For three, to six, to nine months, there will be more people wanting a vaccine than there are vaccines.” What’s more, supplies such as syringes and vials could create significant bottlenecks.

The Need for Widespread Adoption

Vaccines are most effective when used by the majority of the population. This could prove difficult to achieve, given public skepticism related to the COVID-19 vaccine’s accelerated timeline. Even established and respected vaccinations for diseases such as measles have seen significant resistance in recent years. As the anti-vax movement has gained traction, the CDC has made numerous efforts toward transparency to assuage fears.

Researchers worry that anti-vax efforts will prevent many who need the vaccine most from seeking this option once it becomes available to the public. Already, a YouGov survey suggests that one in six UK respondents would not participate in COVID-19 vaccines if granted the ability. This could leave those medically unfit for vaccination vulnerable. For immunocompromised individuals to benefit from herd immunity, they must rely on the widespread vaccinations of their peers.

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