PALO ALTO (KPIX) — In a race to beat the pandemic, three viable vaccines for COVID-19 should be getting approval from the Food and Drug Administration, next month, but who will get it first, which one will it be and when?
A Stanford immunologist says there is no easy answer to any of those questions since the companies have not released full data for some of these vaccines. But the fact that there are three vaccines is a good sign that the end of the pandemic is closer than ever.
“That’s remarkable, that’s never happened before in the history of vaccines,” said Dr. Bali Pulendran, a Professor of Immunology at Stanford University. “Typically, it takes 5 years, 10 years to sometimes 15 years before you can go from a concept to testing in humans.”
Dr. Pulendran says some of these vaccines began their clinical trials in March, just a couple of months after researchers discovered the genetic code for coronavirus.
The three viable vaccines developed by Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca have an efficacy rate of potentially 90 percent or higher.
“Before you ask how do they decide which vaccine goes where, you have to ask, how do they decide who gets the vaccine,” adds Dr. Pulendran. “I would love to have a choice as a vaccine but I think it remains to be seen. I think it’s going to depend on availability.”
According to Governor Gavin Newsom, the vaccine will first go to healthcare workers on the front lines of treating COVID patients. The three vaccines that are expected to be approved first work in different ways but all have one goal, to protect people from an infection.
Dr. Pulendran says the vaccines have gone through three rigorous phases of clinical trials.
“These trials are designed to analyze not only how effective these vaccines are but how safe they are,” said Pulendran.
The AstraZeneca vaccine announced Monday by Oxford University differs from the previous two in one unique way. It does not need to be refrigerated at the temperature of minus 70 degrees Celsius and can be widely used in developing countries that lack the level of refrigeration.
All three of these vaccines will require multiple shots make the immune system strong enough to fight off the virus. Johnson & Johnson’s single shot vaccine is currently going through clinical trials.
Doctors still have questions about the reported efficacy, what populations they are effective on and how long do the immune responses last.
Dr. Pulendran says one thing is clear, the world can learn a valuable lesson from this pandemic.
“How is it under crisis that we were able to do what would normally taken a decade or longer,” said Dr. Pulendran. “What lessons can we learn from this as we go forward in the post corona era.”
According Pulendran, all of the vaccines look pretty good and they are an indication that the whole world is going to have a portfolio of vaccines that are pretty effective against COVID-19. The side effects are reported as being fairly minor.
Governor Gavin Newsom is delaying the timeline for the general public, saying mass vaccinations will not happen until early next summer.
Doctors say roughly 70 to 80 percent of the population will need to get vaccinated to establish herd immunity.