As the C.D.C. prepares for two vaccines, here are some answers to a few of the most common questions.
In planning documents sent last week to public health agencies around the country, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention described preparations for two coronavirus vaccines simply referred to as Vaccine A and Vaccine B.
But the technical details, including the time between doses and storage temperatures, match well with the two vaccines furthest along in U.S. clinical tests, made by Moderna and Pfizer.
Some experts are concerned about what they see as a rushed process. “It’s hard not to see this as a push for a pre-election vaccine,” said Saskia Popescu, an infection prevention epidemiologist in Arizona.
Still, public health experts agree that agencies at all levels of government should urgently prepare for what will eventually be a vast, complex effort to vaccinate hundreds of millions of Americans.
Here are some answers to some basic questions people may have.
How do these vaccines work?
Moderna and Pfizer are testing a new kind of vaccine that has never before been approved for use by people. It contains genetic molecules called messenger RNA that are injected into muscle cells, which treat them like instructions for building a protein.
How well do they work?
Both vaccines have gone through extensive early tests, but it is not known if they’re safe and effective.
Once designed, vaccines go through four testing stages. In the preclinical stage, researchers test them on animals. For Covid-19, these include hamsters and genetically modified mice, both of which can experience some of the same symptoms as humans.
If these tests yield promising results, then the vaccines go into three phases of clinical trials in people.
Moderna and Pfizer are currently testing their candidates in Phase 3 trials. In their earlier human studies, neither vaccine produced serious side effects. Both vaccines provoked people’s immune systems to make antibodies that can neutralize the coronavirus.
Could a vaccine be approved before clinical trials are completed?
Some federal health officials have said a vaccine could be made available to at least some groups before clinical trials are completed. An independent Data and Safety Monitoring Board is charged with checking in on clinical trials to ensure there are no serious safety issues.
If the vaccine is harming participants, the trial may be ended early. But if it appeared to be working well, the board could decide that it would no longer be ethical to continue giving some participants a placebo and end the trial early.
What have companies said about when their vaccines may be ready?
Pfizer recently said it was “on track” for seeking government review “as early as October 2020.” Moderna has said it expects to complete enrollment in its Phase 3 trial in September, but has not provided an estimate about when the vaccine might be ready for the public.
Federal officials said in May that the first doses of a vaccine being developed by AstraZeneca, in partnership with the University of Oxford, could be delivered by October. But AstraZeneca, which recently began Phase 3 trials in the United States, is now saying it could supply the first doses by the end of 2020.
How would a vaccine reach the public?
Normally, vaccine makers would wait for clinical trials to yield definitive results before moving forward with manufacturing. This time, many manufacturers have begun preparing in advance for production, getting money from governments to buffer the risk.
The C.D.C.’s planning documents indicate the extraordinary complexity of distributing vaccines to hundreds of millions of people in a country with a fragmented health care system. Past experiences serve as a warning about how this undertaking can go awry.
When might the first vaccines be distributed?
The C.D.C. told public health agencies last week that limited doses may be available beginning in late October or November.
Who will get it first?
In its planning documents, the C.D.C. said certain groups would have priority, beginning with health care workers, essential workers (like police officers or those in critical industries like food production), “national security populations,” and employees and residents of long-term care facilities like nursing homes.
Will these two Covid-19 vaccines be the only ones available?
Probably not. Aside from Moderna and Pfizer, there are 34 other vaccines in clinical trials worldwide. There are over 90 more vaccines confirmed to be in active preclinical testing. Over the next year, clinical trials are planned for 69 of them.
Just weeks into the semester, a growing number of colleges and universities are escalating how they respond to student parties — the so-called superspreader events that flout emergency orders — with punitive measures like suspensions and fraternity sanctions.
The crackdown comes as campuses grapple with rising infections.
One day after it drew acclaim for its twice-weekly testing of students and staff with a saliva-based test it developed, the University of Illinois ordered students on Wednesday to limit in-person activities for two weeks, including small gatherings.
The measures were announced after more than 700 students tested positive for the virus since Aug. 24.
The university said students should leave their rooms only to go to class or work, buy groceries or food, exercise alone, or attend religious services. It attributed the rise in cases to parties and students ignoring quarantine orders, saying it would crack down on violators.
At the University of Missouri, 330 students were facing disciplinary action and 10 Greek houses were placed under a temporary suspension for violations of emergency orders, the Missourian newspaper reported on Wednesday.
The University of South Carolina announced that 15 students had been placed under interim suspension and that six Greek houses had been charged with student conduct violations stemming from parties.
The action came as nearly half of the fraternity and sorority chapter houses in the university’s Greek Village were placed under a 14-day quarantine after some students in them tested positive, administrators said.
On Wednesday, the university, which is in Columbia, S.C., and has about 35,000 students, reported that more than 1,000 students had tested positive for the virus.
South Korea was so proud of its handling of the coronavirus pandemic that it coined a term for it: K-quarantine, echoing the global musical phenomenon K-pop.
Its two-pronged strategy of fighting the virus while keeping the economy running appeared to work. The country all but halted a large outbreak without closing its borders, locking down towns or drawing an outcry over draconian restrictions on movement. The country was held up as a model for the rest of the world.
But now, South Korea is struggling with a second wave of infections spreading from the populous Seoul metropolitan area, and its strategy seems as precarious as ever. To complicate matters, some of the government’s strongest allies in the fight against Covid-19, young doctors, have gone on strike, unhappy with President Moon Jae-in’s medical reform program.
The government is also trying to sustain a fragile balance between controlling the virus and safeguarding the economy, and between using government power to protect public health and not infringing on civil liberties.
South Korea’s daily caseload of new infections, once fewer than 10, has been in the triple digits since Aug. 14, taking the country of 50 million people to more than 20,000 cases and 329 deaths, according to a New York Times database. Officials reported 195 cases on Thursday, falling below 200 for the first time since Aug. 17.
The virus has spread quickly from churches and a large antigovernment protest rally. Mr. Moon’s government has threatened lawsuits and prosecution against churchgoers and protesters accused of impeding official efforts to control the epidemic. But they’ve pushed back, calling him a dictator who is running the country under “quarantine martial law.”
In other developments from around the world:
Thailand has gone 100 days without a reported case of local transmission, one of the few major nations to reach that threshold since the pandemic began. But its success in halting the spread of the virus has come at a significant financial cost. Thailand’s last reported case of community transmission was confirmed on May 24. Hundreds of cases have been found since then among residents returning from abroad, but all were detected during the required 14-day quarantine periods. As of Thursday, Thailand had reported 3,425 cases and 58 deaths, according to a New York Times database.
India reported 83,883 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, breaking its own global record. It has the world’s third-highest number of cases and deaths after the United States and Brazil.
The Czech Republic reported 650 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, its highest single-day increase since the virus first appeared in the country in March.
Turkey will impose restrictions on weddings and other social events amid a surge in new cases. The daily number of cases was around 1,000 last month, but has reached almost 1,600 in the last week.
Reporting was contributed by Choe Sang-Hun, Jennifer Jett, Katie Thomas, Safak Timur, Neil Vigdor and Carl Zimmer.