Path 4Ward: What comes next in the race for a coronavirus vaccine

As states around the United States reopen, it is easy to feel as if the coronavirus pandemic is coming to a close.

However, scientists agree the only real way to end the pandemic is to find an effective vaccine.

Like any new medical treatment, scientists will need to approve their vaccine’s safety and effectiveness through at least three clinical trial phases.

Currently, there are dozens of vaccines in phase 2 of trials, and in the next several months at least three of those are expected to enter the third and final phase.

The biotech company Moderna believes it will be ready for phase 3 by July.

In August, researchers with the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca plan to launch the third phase in their trials. Finally, in August, Johnson & Johnson believes it will be ready for phase 3.

As part of this critical phase, tens of thousands of people will volunteer their bodies to test out the experimental vaccinations so scientists can find out once and for all if the one they are working on is actually effective in preventing COVID-19.

Moderna’s trial alone will test 30,000 participants.

This week, the nation’s top infectious disease specialist, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said he remains cautiously optimistic about the vaccine timeline.

“We could have a vaccine either by the end of this calendar year, or in the first few months of 2021,” Fauci said Wednesday.

However, many caution that having a vaccine ready by the New Year will only happen if everything goes perfectly. In the history of medicine, the fastest vaccination to make it to market was the mumps vaccine– and that took around four years to develop.

If Dr. Fauci is correct and a COVID-19 vaccine is ready in the next six to seven months, the challenges do not simply end. There is still the hurdle of distributing doses of such vaccination to hundreds of millions of American, and the billions of other people across the world.

Fauci said to get a head start, the government will immediately start producing any vaccine that shows significant promise.

That way, if it gets the green light, it will be ready for distribution. So when– and if– a vaccine is approved, when can you expect to get it?

That answer may depend on your coronavirus risk.

Health officials say people like healthcare workers and those in long-term living facilities will probably be among the first to get vaccinated.

Since children are shown to be more resilient to coronavirus, they may be the last to get vaccinated.

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