Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of the nation's leading experts in infectious diseases, believes that Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine could be available as early as December of this year. The pharmaceutical company announced Monday that initial Phase 3 clinical trial results show its vaccine, being developed in partnership with BioNTech, is more than 90% effective.
Speaking on MSNBC Tuesday, Fauci explained that Pfizer will now present data from the trail to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), where independent career scientists will review it and consult with an advisory board. Fauci said that it is "very likely" that a request for will be put in for emergency use authorization, which he explained as “an application for full approval. Fuaci said that he expects this to take place within the next week to week-and-half. Should it go through, Fuaci said that "by the end of November, beginning of December," the vaccine will be available. It will not, however, be available to everyone, with Fuaci noting, "by the time we get into December, we will have doses available for people judged to be at the highest priority to get it first."
According to The New York Times, Pfizer's chief executive has said that 30 to 40 million doses of the vaccine could be available by the end of the year, which is enough for 15 to 20 million people (the vaccine requires an initial shot, which is followed by a booster shot three weeks later). Pfizer and BioNTech predict that they could eventually be producing 1.3 billion doses a year. The outlet notes that while it has not been decided who will qualify for the initial doses, it is likely that groups that are at higher risk for infection, or those more vulnerable to the virus, will take priority. This is includes the elderly. Health care workers will also likely be among the first to receive the vaccine. It is unclear just when the general public would be able to get the vaccine.
The distribution of the vaccine will not be easy, however, as there are numerous logistic challenges. According to NBC News, the vaccine must be kept at 94 degrees below zero Fahrenheit to maintain optimal efficacy. To achieve this condition, the vaccines will be packed below dry ice inside thermal containers. They will be shipped via air to major distribution hub before being delivered by ground transport to dosing locations. Once delivered, the vaccines can be stored in ultra-low temperature freezers for up to 6 months or inside a refrigeration unit for up to 5 days.