Politicians and public health officials are making a huge push to develop a vaccine against the novel coronavirus, and nearly 100 clinical trials are underway. But what does that mean for your ability to get yourself and your loved ones vaccinated against COVID-19? Are the headlines a cause for optimism? What’s misleading or outright misinformation? We broke down the most common myths circulating about the coronavirus vaccine.
Vaccine development takes years. The chickenpox vaccine took almost two decades; the quickest was a vaccine for ebola, which took four years. Although technology has compressed that time frame, and numerous trials of coronavirus vaccines are going on worldwide, most experts do not expect a coronavirus vaccine in 2020.
Experts are afraid that people aren’t preparing for a potential COVID-19 outbreak this fall because they think they’ll be able to get vaccinated by September; that is unlikely, Stat News reported. Dr. Anthony Fauci, a key member of the White House coronavirus task force, said producing a vaccine by January 2021 is “doable.” He had previously said 18 months would set a speed record.
When vaccine developers say they plan to have a vaccine “ready,” that could mean just ready to be tested. Every vaccine must go through three phases of clinical trials to prove its safety and efficacy, and each phase takes about three months.
When a vaccine is FDA-approved, producing enough doses for everyone will take time. The first people to get vaccinations will likely be healthcare workers. “I don’t think that the general population will have vaccine probably until the second half of 2021. And that’s if everything works OK,” said Robin Robinson, former head of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority.
Experts say that the coronavirus could be like the seasonal flu, requiring a different vaccine each year. They just aren’t sure yet.
Although it is true that a vaccine has never been developed for a coronavirus before, that doesn’t mean it won’t happen here. In recent weeks, promising results have been reported by researchers at the University of Oxford, and another vaccine candidate has proceeded to a Phase II clinical trial. Fauci called the latter “impressive.”
Scientists likely won’t know if a coronavirus vaccine can prevent infection until April or May of 2021, Dr. Mark Mulligan, director of the Vaccine Center at New York University’s Langone Health, told CNN.
Unfortunately, it won’t. The flu and COVID-19 are caused by two different viruses. But you should still get a flu shot this year. Preventing cases of the flu will ease the strain on the healthcare system if there’s another COVID-19 outbreak, and the flu can weaken the immune system, potentially increasing your susceptibility to COVID-19.
Although social-distancing measures will likely be necessary for a while, “I don’t think we’re all going to have to stay home for 12 to 18 months,” epidemiologist Caitlin Rivers, a senior scholar and assistant professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told CNN. She says we will likely be able to shift from blanket stay-at-home orders to a more precise system of contact tracing and tracking. It’s also possible effective treatments may be developed before a vaccine that makes COVID-19 a less serious illness.
A new survey found that 23 percent of people would not get a coronavirus vaccine, the Boston Globe reported on May 7. A separate poll by Morning Consult found that 14 percent of Americans wouldn’t get a coronavirus vaccine, and 22 percent weren’t sure. Anti-vaccine sentiment could jeopardize any potential coronavirus vaccine’s effectiveness—if not enough people receive the vaccine, it will take longer to develop widespread “herd immunity.”
Until we know more about a vaccine, follow the health and safety guidelines outlined by the CDC: Wash your hands often; avoid close contact; cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when around others; cover coughs and sneezes; and clean and disinfect.
And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don’t miss these Things You Should Never Do During the Coronavirus Pandemic.