The federal government has told states to get ready to distribute a coronavirus vaccine by November 1. The timeline raised public health experts’ concerns over a “October surprise” — a vaccine approval driven by political considerations ahead of a presidential election, rather than science.
The CDC also sent some health departments three planning documents which included possible timelines for when vaccines would be available. According to one of the papers, which outlined a scenario in which a vaccine could be available as soon as the end of October, the documents are to be used to develop plans for early vaccination when supply may be restricted. Another of the papers says limited doses of COVID-19 vaccines may be available by early November, and supply will increase substantially by 2021.
James S. Blumenstock, a senior vice president of the State and Territorial Health Officers Association, said the CDC offered “an aggressive but necessary timetable” and mobilised public health agencies to prepare detailed plans. Several public health experts have pointed out that new vaccine final stage trials are still being trained, and are at best halfway through the process. The vaccines are two doses, each administered a month apart. The experts told the AP that they had not understood how adequate data could be available on whether the vaccines function and are secure before November 1.