Public health experts target early 2021 for when COVID-19 vaccines could be ready

Several companies are getting ready to test their vaccines on thousands of people

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WOLO) —With the number of COVID-19 cases rising across the country, several companies are fast-tracking vaccines to be ready as soon as next year.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, testified to Congress Tuesday saying some vaccines could get through testing and have millions of doses ready to be administered either by the end of the year or in early 2021.

To combat growing cases of COVID-19 without a vaccine, cities like Greenville and Columbia have passed ordinances requiring people to wear face coverings in public.

However, Gov. Henry McMaster (R-SC) is not planning on making mask-wearing a statewide matter, but says people should be cognizant that the virus is still real and dangerous.

“It’s just a question of being respectful to your fellow citizens and that is the only way that we will stop this virus short of a vaccine,” Gov. McMaster said in a press conference back in May.

Some vaccines are getting ready to enter the next phase of testing, but public health experts say it won’t be until early 2021 that one will be made widely available.

Dr. Mufaro Kanyangarara, an Assistant Professor of Epidemiology at the University of South Carolina, says vaccines usually take up to 10 years to go through the process.

“We’re seeing that the scale and the speed in terms of the development has been much faster than any other vaccine,” Dr. Kanyangarara said.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) says there are three phases a vaccine has to go through. Phase I involves testing on a small group of people, then each phase adds more people that can be tested.

In his testimony, Dr. Fauci said one company, Moderna, is gearing up for their Phase III trials, and could be testing their vaccine on 30,000 people as soon as next month.

Even though several companies have gotten the green light to do clinical trials, another thing to keep an eye on is whether the virus mutates and becomes resistant to vaccines.

“Right now it hasn’t which is a good thing, but if it does within the next couple of months, that will have an impact on vaccine development as well as how long protection will be, like will it be for that season, will it be for a longer time,” Dr. Kanyangarara said. 

Even though it may be months before a vaccine is ready for widespread use, Dr. Kanyangarara says the best thing to do is wear a mask and protect others.

“People forget well ‘if I have one, then the other’s okay’, well, no. Your best chances would be if you’re wearing both your mask and you’re practicing physical distancing,” she said.

According to South Carolina’s Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), there have been 28,962 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state, with at least 691 deaths caused by the virus.

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