Trump says he is ‘confident’ the US will have a coronavirus vaccine this year. Experts say it could take up to 18 months

Trump says he is ‘confident’ the US will have a coronavirus vaccine this year. Experts say it could take up to 18 months
Small bottles labeled with a "Vaccine COVID-19" sticker and a medical syringe in an illustration. Reuters

President Donald Trump said during a Fox News town hall on Sunday night that he was “confident” the US would have a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of the year, despite estimates from health experts that it could be 12 to 18 months before one is readily available to the public.

“We are very confident that we’ll have a vaccine by the end of the year,” Trump said at the virtual town hall.

“We think we are going to have a vaccine by the end of this year,” he said. “We’re pushing very hard.”

He added that companies like Johnson & Johnson, one of more than 70 firms around the world working to develop a coronavirus vaccine, were getting close to having a vaccine ready for public use.

“Many companies are, I think, close,” he said.

Though companies are moving forward on vaccines at record speed, health experts have estimated that the development and distribution of a vaccine could take 12 to 18 months. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in March that the process would take “a year, a year and a half, at least.”

Trump acknowledged the ambitiousness of his projection, saying at the town hall: “The doctors would say, ‘Well you shouldn’t say that.’ But I’ll say what I think.”

At least 115 COVID-19 vaccines are in development, but rushing them can be risky

Some scientists have expressed concern that even as companies move quickly toward a vaccine and as the Food and Drug Administration’s approval processes have been condensed, rushing a vaccine is risky.

According to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, at least 115 COVID-19 vaccines are in development.

But vaccines for other coronavirus outbreaks, including the MERS and SARS viruses, took over 18 months to develop and have yet to be fully approved for use on the public. The vaccine for SARS took 20 months just to be trialed on humans, and the fastest vaccine ever developed, for mumps, took four years.

Chris Whitty, the UK’s chief medical adviser, said last month that the chances of securing an effective vaccine or treatment for the coronavirus this year were “incredibly small.” The Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche said last month that a coronavirus vaccine probably wouldn’t be ready before the end of 2021.

Dr. Peter Hotez, the dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, told Reuters in March that there was a risk a coronavirus vaccine would actually make the disease worse in people infected with COVID-19, instead of protecting them from it.

Bill Gates, the billionaire Microsoft cofounder who recently said his foundation was giving “total attention” to the coronavirus pandemic, wrote in a blog post last week that he considered eight to 10 candidates for a coronavirus vaccine to be promising. He added that a vaccine could take 18 months to develop, though it “could be as little as 9 months or as long as two years,” given the sheer number of approaches being tested simultaneously.

Trump stressed at the town hall that the US was doing things that had “never happened before.”

“This country needs a vaccine,” he said, “and you’re going to have it by the end of the year.”— Rosie Perper /

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