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Trump’s optimistic coronavirus vaccine prediction was too good to be true

Published Aug 10th, 2020 2:15PM EDT
Coronavirus vaccine
Image: Leigh Prather/Adobe

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  • President Donald Trump claims that a coronavirus vaccine could be ready by November 3rd, but experts say that it won’t be possible to have a vaccine ready by that date.
  • Early data from Moderna’s Phase 3 vaccine trials are aiming to enroll 30,000 people in the US by the end of September, but only 4,536 have been enrolled so far.
  • Even if 30,000 people are enrolled in Moderna’s study by September, it will take more than a month and a half to give every study participant two doses of the vaccine.

Last week, President Donald Trump suggested on multiple occasions that a vaccine for the novel coronavirus should be ready before the end of the year. In a briefing last Monday, he said a vaccine might be available “far in advance of the end of the year.” Days later, he told Geraldo Rivera in a radio interview that a vaccine could roll out “right around” November 3rd —  the day of the presidential election. He doubled down on that claim later the same day.

For as much as Trump struggles with the truth, this particular prediction didn’t seem entirely far-fetched based on the speed at which vaccine development and testing are taking place, but his optimism may not sync up with reality. Two vaccine experts tell CNN that November 3rd is not a realistic target date for a vaccine.

“There’s no way. There’s just no way,” said Baylor College of Medicine vaccinologist Dr. Peter Hotez after reviewing early data from Moderna, which recently began its Phase 3 vaccine trials in the United States. CNN obtained part of an email Moderna sent to the principal investigators of its vaccine trials on Friday which revealed that 4,536 subjects have been enrolled. Phase 3 trials began on July 27th, and Moderna hopes to enroll 30,000 subjects in all. Moderna claims that it is “on track to complete enrollment in September” for its Phase 3 trials.

As CNN explains, Moderna won’t be able to reach its target of 30,000 enrollees by the end of next month at this pace. That said, only 54 of the 89 sites that the company plans to use for its study are currently operating, which means that the pace should pick up significantly in the coming weeks as more sites open.

Unfortunately, even if Moderna can enroll 30,000 individuals in its Phase 3 trials by September 30th, vaccine experts say there is no chance of a safe and effective vaccine being available to the public by Election Day. “I don’t see how that would be possible,” Dr. Paul Offit, a vaccinologist at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, told CNN.

Assuming that Moderna is able to innoculate 30,000 people within the next month and a half, those 30,000 people will only have been given the first dose. They have to wait 28 days before receiving the second and final dose, and then it will take another two weeks before the vaccine becomes fully effective, according to Offit. You can see why having a vaccine ready for public consumption by November 3rd would be virtually impossible.

The two vaccinologists who CNN spoke with believe results from Moderna’s Phase 3 trials could be ready in the first quarter of 2021. “Maybe by Inauguration Day we might have a glimmer of whether the vaccine is working and be able to assess its safety,” Hotez said. Inauguration Day is January 20th, 2021.

Jacob Siegal
Jacob Siegal Associate Editor

Jacob Siegal is Associate Editor at BGR, having joined the news team in 2013. He has over a decade of professional writing and editing experience, and helps to lead our technology and entertainment product launch and movie release coverage.

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