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While many public officials view a coronavirus vaccine, which some experts say could come as early as the end of this year, as the official endgame to this pandemic, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, whose Chan Zuckerberg Initiative has put forth $25 million for COVID-19 research, predicts we may not see one until 2021.
“I personally am not the expert in these areas, so I’m a little wary to weigh in myself,” Zuckerberg said while appearing on the Hugh Hewitt show. “But from everything that I’ve heard from folks, I don’t think that we should expect a vaccine this year.”
Zuckerberg cited the need to test a vaccine for both safety and efficacy before releasing it to the public as a reason for the wait. He also cited unknown risks that could delay the development.
“And you have to keep in mind that you know, to date, the fastest that we’ve ever gone from really seeing a new virus and working on a vaccine to getting the vaccine is Ebola, which was four years, right, and that’s recent,” he said. “So we’re talking here about, even if we’re ready by the end of H1 and 2021, that would be, you know, 18 months or a little less than 18 months, which would just be significantly faster than this has ever gone before.”
His tune changed on the topic of therapeutics, wherein he said researchers can use already-approved FDA drugs to test for efficacy in treating COVID-19 infection rather than have to double-back and test for safety.
“And there, you have the benefit, unlike the vaccine development, where you know that these drugs are safe, or at least the side effects are well-documented,” he told Hewitt. “So here, you’re just testing for effectiveness. And that’s where you’ve gotten things like Remdesivir, which it’s not that it’s a complete game-changer for treating this, but it’s a small step in the right direction and it gives some of these companies something that they can build on top of as a foundation.”
Last week, President Trump announced a new public-private partnership to develop a COVID-19 vaccine as part of “Operation Warp Speed.”
“It’s objective is to finish developing and then to manufacture and distribute a proven coronavirus vaccine…prior to the end of the year,” Trump said. “I think we’re going to have some very good results coming out very quickly.”