With the US having recorded nearly eight million cases of Covid-19, over 200,000 deaths, and more than 66,000 new cases on 15 October, it is easy to conclude that the control of the outbreak is far from ideal and that it may continue to constrain daily activities until a safe and effective vaccine has been developed and deployed. Many people consider a vaccine to be a potential panacea to the litany of issues that Covid-19 has presented to the US, and thus it is no surprise that vaccines have become a point of political discussion. The development of a Covid-19 vaccine could be viewed as beneficial to whichever politician or party helped move the intervention from development to the clinic.
President Trump has given Operation Warp Speed, an initiative developed to help accelerate vaccine development with at least six companies participating, a remarkable combined total of over $6B for the development and delivery of Covid-19 vaccines. Thus, there is little financial barrier for the development of a vaccine. However, vaccine development is generally a time-consuming process, and experts in the field have expressed concerns that this effort is being rushed and that safety and efficacy of candidate vaccines might not be properly understood before rollout. These concerns have been raised following the Trump administration’s rush to promote therapies that are considered by experts to either be ineffective (chloroquine/hydroxychloroquine) or to have substantially misrepresented data that was seized upon by experts and later forced a walk back from the FDA (convalescent plasma). As both agents received Emergency Use Authorizations (EUAs) from the FDA despite only being supported by tenuous data at best, and hydroxychloroquine’s EUA was subsequently rescinded, fears over rushing to bring Covid-19 interventions to the public seem well-founded.
To help alleviate these fears, nine Covid-19 vaccine developers have pledged in a press release that any coronavirus vaccine they produce will be developed and tested with “high ethical standards and sound scientific principle” and to “always make the safety and well-being of vaccinated individuals our top priority.”
Trump’s approach is focused on bringing a vaccine to the market quickly and is sometimes at odds with the scientific community. However, presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden supports a different approach, where scientists and experts will guide decisions on vaccine approval and implementation, not politicians, saying during a press conference on 16 September: “So let me be clear. I trust vaccines. I trust scientists.”
It is incredibly unlikely that any vaccine will become available before the 3 November election, leaving the presidential candidates’ approaches to the outbreak, which are discussed further in GlobalData’s Presidential Contenders Have Different Priorities in Covid-19 Response report, as the most important factor for determining who is best suited to handling the outbreak going forward.