Is anyone else getting tired of the conflicting information coming not only from politicians but from medical professionals regarding the likelihood of a functional vaccine against the novel coronavirus in some relatively short timeframe? Keep in mind that barring the discovery of a nearly universally functional antiviral medication without potentially lethal side effects, a vaccine is the only way that we’re really going to put this entire mess behind us. But before you start holding your breath for one to arrive, sort out the information you’re getting on this subject carefully.

Only this week, President Trump was once again expressing optimism that we’ll have a vaccine by the end of the year. The only thing that most of the experts seem to agree on is that even if one is successfully created, it’s going to take a lot longer than that before it will be widely available to the general public. In this opinion piece from USA Today, doctors are quoted as saying that even under the best of circumstances, you’ll be unlikely to get a novel coronavirus shot by the end of next year.

Many experts are saying that we can expect a COVID-19 vaccination in 12 to 18 months. They argue that the science is straightforward. The same cannot be said, though, of clinical testing and manufacturing vaccines at scale. In fact, few people will likely be vaccinated for coronavirus in 2021.

It typically takes five years to bring to market a vaccine for a new disease. Previous efforts to produce vaccines on a large scale, including a government-funded effort by Novartis to build a flu-vaccine facility, took years and hundreds of millions of dollars. Furthermore, the Novartis facility’s initial capacity was only 50 million vaccines a year —enough to serve just 15% of the U.S. population.

Rather than counting on a vaccine to quickly resolve the health and economic challenges arising from COVID-19, it’s more realistic to plan for the small supply of vaccines we’re likely to have in 2021. We should also consider how we can use the vaccine alongside strategies such as social distancing and diagnostics to limit further spread of the virus.

We’re hearing lots of complaints about how “fake news” about the virus is being propagated online. Twitter and Facebook are even suspending users for posting information they’ve deemed false. But when it comes to the prospects for a vaccine, how is anyone supposed to separate the wheat from the chaff when we can’t even get the medical community to agree on our chances?

I went searching for more answers about this subject this morning and was once again totally disappointed. More than a month ago, Science Magazine was touting the progress of vaccine makers who were close to cracking this case at record-setting speeds. It was being developed by a biotech company called Moderna, despite the fact that the company had never brought a vaccine to market before. By this weekend they had signed a deal to produce one billion doses. The only problem is, they haven’t even made it through trials yet and nobody knows for sure if it will work.

At nearly the same time, yesterday a doctor who is billed as a “coronavirus expert” and is acting as a special envoy to the World Health Organization, warned everyone that there may never be a functional vaccine. (Yahoo News)

An effective vaccine to protect against coronavirus may never be developed, a special envoy to the World Health Organisation (WHO) on COVID-19 has said…

“There are some viruses that we still do not have vaccines against,” said Dr David Nabarro, a professor of global health at Imperial College London, who is also serving as a special envoy to the WHO during the coronavirus pandemic.

“We can’t make an absolute assumption that a vaccine will appear at all, or if it does appear, whether it will pass all the tests of efficacy and safety.

So which is it? This year, next year or… never? And how do you plan to control the flow of “fake news” on this subject when all of the news might wind up being wrong?

I’ve heard the complaints about President Trump touting one drug or another and pitching the idea that a vaccine is on the way. These charges are overblown, but not totally amiss. It’s the President’s job to keep people’s spirits up and look for good information to share. So it’s not surprising if he takes an optimistic view. But at the same time, if he acts like too much of a cheerleader, he could be giving faulty information to people who may be relying on him when making critical decisions about retirement, investments or healthcare.

For the time being, all of us – including the President – should probably take a step back, take a deep breath (with our masks on, I suppose), and use a cautious approach. We’ll know sooner or later if the cavalry is riding over the hill to save us with a quiver full of vaccines. For now, we’re largely going to have to protect ourselves. Let’s all get used to that idea, shall we?