Researchers say several vaccines will be ready next year

HOUSTON, Texas -- As work around the world continues each day to develop a vaccine against the coronavirus, Baylor College of Medicine in Houston is playing a role.

"We've been submitting our dossiers to the FDA, so we hope to begin trials in the fall. But the vaccine evaluation unit is doing clinical testing for operation 'warp speed,' said Dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor Dr. Peter Hotez.

Dr. Hotez expects several vaccines will be debuted sometime next year, but those who receive the vaccinations should not expect life and routine to rewind to the time before the outbreak.

"It's good to remember that these vaccines are not magic bullets. They're not going to replace public health measures. They'll be used alongside public health control measures," he said. That means masks, frequent hand-washing and hand sanitizers will still be required, and most important, social distancing.

"They may be like the flu vaccines now," he said. "They don't guarantee you won't get the flu, depending on the strain, but the symptoms may be less severe."

Even as the world waits for a vaccine to provide some safeguard, Hotez believes that there will some people who will refuse it. "There's a strong anti-vaccination lobby here in Texas, which brings politics into an already complicated picture." He also believes messaging from the White House, and big pharmaceutical are creating false expectations. "The virus will not just disappear one day. It's going to be with us."

There will likely be a rush to get the vaccine when it's eventually released. The question raised by some people is whether a first generation of COVID-19 vaccine will be safe and effective.

To that question, Hotez replied, "It depends on the vaccine. There are about a dozen that could be advanced and two or three that would be released to the public. Each will have different strengths and weaknesses, and it's hard to answer in the abstract."

He plans to be vaccinated when the time comes, and has asked if he can take it as part of his own clinical trials.

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