Scott, are we being too optimistic about vaccines? When are we likely to get a vaccine by?
Gottlieb: I’m on the board of Pfizer, which has one of the vaccines that’s in advanced development right now, and I think a reasonable base case is that we could have a vaccine in early 2021. That’s an optimistic scenario, but it’s not an unreasonable scenario if the clinical trials demonstrate that the vaccines are safe and effective. If they’re able to successfully manufacture these products, you could have a situation where you have an FDA-licensed vaccine in early 2021. And there may be a vaccine available earlier under an emergency use authorization for a very select population — let’s say, frontline healthcare workers — that is enrolled in a registry where you continue to follow them and collect safety and efficacy information.
Getting enough people vaccinated would happen quickly. At least, I don’t think that there’s going to be a logistical problem. We’ll have enough glass and syringes to vaccinate people. I think the question is, how quickly would people take up the vaccine? And that’s going to turn on how effective the data is, how much confidence people have in the process, how we approach it politically in terms of whether people have confidence that the process was objective and rigorous.
But I think that there would be a pent-up demand. Enough people would want to get vaccinated to provide the societal benefit. You don’t need to vaccinate everyone. A lot of people will have had coronavirus by then. So if you can get 30–40 percent vaccination rates, that’s pretty good. And it’s probably sufficient to quell this epidemic.
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This article by James Pethokoukis first appeared in AEIdeas on August 18, 2020.