Trump promises forthcoming COVID-19 vaccine



President Donald Trump participates in a Latinos for Trump Coalition roundtable at Treasure Island Hotel & Casino, Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

In recent weeks, President Trump has repeatedly insisted that a vaccine will be ready for distribution by late fall, raising concerns that production and distribution may be rushed due to political motivations. After making a similar statement at a press conference in Washington D.C. on Sept. 4, Trump again promised that a vaccine will be available to the public by Nov. 1.

“Before the end of the year, we will have a safe and effective vaccine and we will defeat the China virus,” Trump said at a rally in Freeland, Michigan on Thursday.

Despite these continued promises, there seems to be uncertainty that a safe and effective vaccine will be available by Election Day. Sen. Kamala Harris said on a CNN broadcast that Trump is using the vaccine as political leverage.

“He’s looking at an election coming up in less than 60 days and he’s grasping for whatever he can get to pretend he can be a leader on this issue when he’s not,” Harris said.

Allan Louden, department chair and professor of communications at Wake Forest University said he believes there are political motivations behind President Trump’s push for a quick vaccine.

“Trump has tried to create immunization out of magic and good wishes, in a position that is also dismissive of science,” Louden said.

Trump strongly rejects this statement and claims that the Democratic Party is not doing enough to shield Americans from COVID-19. The president particularly condemns “Democrat-run cities” for their encouragement of protesting while insisting on social distancing measures.

“Biden and his party tried to lock law-abiding Americans into their homes while they encourage rioters and vandals rampaging through, in all cases, Democrat-run cities,” Trump said at the rally in Michigan.

While President Trump has admitted that the White House is working to expedite the vaccine development process, the White House denies allegations that there are political motivations behind these measures.

The process of developing a vaccine

Dr. Craig Klugman, a health sciences professor at DePaul University, said that the process to develop a coronavirus vaccine is a long and bureaucratic process.

“It’s a bureaucratic process to do — it is a scientific process to design them well. And it takes time,” Klugman said. “And this push, this rush to get it out means that we are shorting the science.”

According to the World Health Organization, there are currently 35 vaccines in clinical evaluation and 145 candidates that have yet to be approved for clinical trials. Klugman described the four-phase process of vaccine development once a vaccine has been approved for a clinical trial. 

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, clinical trials for a vaccine are divided into three phases.

The first phase tests healthy people to see if the cause of death is attributed to COVID-19 or the vaccine itself. The second phase tests if the vaccine is effective. This phase tests the side effects of the vaccine and how the volunteers’ immune system reacts to it. The final phase of clinical trials determines the most common side effects, safety concerns and the effectiveness of the vaccine.

Klugman specified phase four of vaccine development as an ongoing process after a vaccine has received approval for distribution. The vaccine continues to be tracked to determine long-term effects.

Second-generation vaccines

Paulo Verardi, pathologist and associate professor at the University of Connecticut, is working to develop a vaccine that has not yet been approved for clinical trials.

Vaccines that have advanced through the stages of clinical trials can be characterized as “first-generation” vaccines because they are created in the first round of successful vaccine development. First-generation vaccines will most likely reduce the risk of someone contracting the disease or reduce the severity of symptoms, but not eliminate the risk of infection altogether. “Second-generation” vaccines hope to eradicate the infection completely.

Verardi and his team are working on developing a “second-generation” vaccine. Verardi reports that those naturally infected by COVID-19 do not seem to be developing a long-lasting immunity. 

“But what we have been noticing is that the level of immunity seems to be waning a little bit quicker than we expected,” Verardi said.

Verardi hopes that vaccine developers will be transparent with their data so that consumers are aware of long-lasting effects and, eventually, a vaccine will be able to assist with creating a lasting immunity.

“My hope is that some of the clinical trials are going to come out that the companies are going to be very transparent with the data so that people can really, you know, be satisfied with what they see,” Verardi said. “It is possible that natural infection gives you a shorter type of immunity, but it is possible that immunization with a vaccine will give you longer, or long-term immunity.”