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The first coronavirus vaccines could be approved before the November election

Published Jun 21st, 2020 1:38PM EDT
Coronavirus Vaccine
Image: YURI KOCHETKOV/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

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  • Several coronavirus vaccine candidates have reached advanced testing phases, showing promising results on volunteers who have received immunizations.
  • Final research results might be ready at some point this fall for some of the potential COVID-19 prophylactics, and they may be authorized for emergency use before the end of 2020.
  • Jefferies analysts believe the Food and Drug Administration could approve some of the vaccines before the November presidential elections.
  • The news will be bullish for the economy and the market, and it could improve Trump’s chances of winning reelection.

The novel coronavirus shut down the world for several months, and the reopening process is proving to be a difficult task. That is especially true in countries or states where the curve hasn’t been really flattened. It’s too early to even talk about the second wave of COVID-19 because the first one is hardly done in many communities. After months of lockdown, most people are looking to return to some sense of normalcy, although not all of them are ready to continue respecting the only measures that can keep them safe. Social distancing, face masks, and proper hygiene are all incredibly important. They’re the only weapons we have to reduce the COVID-19 spread and minimize the risk of exposure until medicine that can cure or prevent the illness is widely available.

The first two drugs that work in COVID-19 therapies have already been identified, but remdesivir and dexamethasone work only in some cases, and that’s not enough. Thankfully, we’ve seen very promising developments when it comes to brand new drugs. More than 130 vaccine candidates have been announced so far, of which around 10 have reached advanced human trial stages. Antibody-based pills are also in the works, and these meds could both cure severe COVID-19 cases and offer temporary immunity. Some of the companies involved in these advanced projects said that regulatory approval for emergency use could come as soon as this fall, and analysts familiar with the biopharmaceutical landscape seem to agree. They went even further to suggest that some of the first vaccines could be given the go-ahead before the November presidential election, though it might not be for the right reasons.

The prediction comes from Jeffries’ biotech-research team, via MarketWatch. The analysts believe that the most promising vaccine candidates could be approved by November for political gain, not just to speed up prophylactic campaigns to immunize people practicing certain types of professions.

“We believe the FDA will likely approve at least one vaccine prior to the November election,” Jeffries Jared Holz said in an interview. “Perhaps multiple vaccines could get the go-ahead at some point early in the fourth quarter and quell fears of a second wave of Covid-19.”

Holz based his prediction in part on signals coming from vaccine makers. Companies including Moderna and AstraZeneca already said their candidates could be ready for emergency use this fall. The data they released give us hope that at least one of them will work. Dr. Anthony Fauci criticized Moderna’s partial announcement but said the vaccine candidate has proven its efficacy. AstraZeneca’s Oxford vaccine is more popular worldwide, having secured orders just short of 2 billion units, well before the Phase 3 results can be released. The US government invested $1.2 billion for 300 million doses of the drug. Manufacturing may start even before these human trials are done. The idea is to speed up production to have drugs ready as fast as possible if they are approved. The companies will take a financial hit f the data shows the drugs are ineffective or unsafe, but that’s a risk worth taking.

The FDA approvals could come ahead of the November election, and they could help Trump as he seeks reelection. Holz says it wouldn’t be surprising to see Trump exert some behind-the-scenes pressure to get vaccine approval and boost his ratings, which would be characteristic of his way of timing policy decisions to influence the electorate and the market.

Regardless of any political motives, the object of health officials is to have these drugs ready as fast as possible. When they’re finally released, there won’t be enough supply to meet demand in the US and elsewhere. Drugmakers already explained the huge logistical nightmare of manufacturing 15 billion doses of vaccines and supplying the entire world. It will be a huge undertaking that will take years to complete.

But frontline workers could receive these drugs first under emergency use approvals, and they could continue to treat the imminent second wave of COVID-19 without as great a risk to their own health. Other categories of workers could be similarly protected. At-risk patients could follow in the months after that so COVID-19 mortality can be reduced significantly. In time, everyone who wants to be vaccinated could have access to a vaccine.

That’s assuming the news that follows Phase 3 experiments is good. If the vaccines can’t meet the efficacy and safety thresholds required to obtain regulatory approvals, they won’t move forward to emergency use approval no matter what politicians might want. The entire hydroxychloroquine saga proved how dangerous it is to promote a COVID-19 cure that doesn’t work. That’s something the scientific community can’t risk with vaccines, especially the drugmakers involved in these projects.

The United States wouldn’t even be the only country looking to deploy vaccines as fast as possible. The European Union is working on its own strategy to have COVID-19 vaccines ready. Chinese officials already said they’re considering using the first vaccines this year even if the scientific data is not ready — China has at least five in advanced human trial stages, with several of them having cleared Phase 2 successfully.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.