Defense Secretary Says Coronavirus Vaccine 'Absolutely' Possible by End of 2020

A coronavirus vaccine is "absolutely" possible by the end of 2020, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on the Today show Friday. The news comes as some officials warn of a potential second wave of the virus heading into the fall and winter and as states across the country continue to reopen following weeks-long lockdowns, prompting concerns of a spike in cases.

Speaking with Today anchor Savannah Guthrie, Esper said that the Department of Defense is "completely confident that we can get this done," explaining that the department "has been on top of the coronavirus since the early days." Stating that the department has "been in this fight from late January on, when we were first bringing Americans back from China" and has "been ahead of the curve and in the fight from day one," Esper called the development of a coronavirus vaccine "the next phase of this battle" and promised that "we will deliver on time the vaccines."

Esper's remarks came after he said during a White House press conference that the Department of Defense "will deliver" a vaccine by the end of the year "at scale to treat the American people and our partners abroad." They also come amid promising signs in the desperate search for a vaccine. Although experts have predicted that it could take 12-18 months to produce a vaccine from the beginning of the widespread outbreak back in March, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said just last month that it seems "doable" that a viable vaccine could be available as soon as January 2021.

In early May, pharmaceutical giant Pfizer began testing multiple versions of an experimental coronavirus vaccine in healthy young adults in the United States. Once safety and immunogenicity has been established, they said, they would move onto phase two, which would involve testing on a second age group consisting of participants between the ages of 65 and 85. Anticipating a successful vaccine candidate, Pfizer and BioNTech also announced that they are working to scale up production for global supply and expect to be able to produce millions of vaccine doses in 2020, a number that will increase to hundreds of millions in 2021.

Providing even more hope was the Friday announcement from Oxford University that an experimental vaccine it had been developing would be progressing to advanced stages of human trials, where it will be tested in 10,260 volunteers, according to NBC News. If successful, the vaccine could be on the market as early as September.