WRAL Investigates

Coronavirus vaccine, ready by end of 2020, may not eliminate virus

Posted September 3, 2020 4:30 p.m. EDT
Updated September 4, 2020 11:21 a.m. EDT

— The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is telling states to prepare for a coronavirus vaccine by the end of October.

While that's positive news, the vaccine won't mean the virus is defeated.

The scientific world is amazed at the speed we could get a coronavirus vaccine. A process that normally takes years is now just taking months.

But one of the state's top epidemiologists, who took part in North Carolina- specific modeling, said the vaccine isn't the most important weapon in the fight against the virus.

"The vaccine is not a silver bullet, okay, let's be really clear on that," said former UNC and RTI researcher Dr. Pia MacDonald.

The vaccine will help, but it doesn't mean we'd win the fight – yet.

There are still lots of unanswered questions about the virus, especially how long antibodies stay in the body.

With these warp speed studies, there's no guarantee the vaccines that hit the market will protect people for a year – like the flu virus.

"There are a lot of vaccines out there that are not 100 percent effective," said MacDonald.

MacDonald has another concern: People who don't believe in vaccination.

She's also worried some may skip the coronavirus vaccine because of safety concerns fueled by how quickly they were developed.

MacDonald says there are other unanswered questions, like how fast are we going to be able to make enough vaccine for everyone.

While there's plenty of uncertainty about the vaccine's effectiveness and availability, MacDonald said there are some things we can be certain of: Wearing a mask and social distancing helps prevent spread.

"We have the tools," said MacDonald. "We don't need to wait for a vaccine.

MacDonald also said the search for a cure to the coronavirus is just as important as the vaccine – though that's not grabbing as many headlines.

She said there are several drugs that show promise in healing the sickest patients.

He was asked whether he would be vaccinated against COVID-19, Doctor Anthony Fauci said he "would not hesitate" to get the vaccine.

Doctor Fauci has questioned the timeline of a potential vaccine, saying it is most likely to be available by the end of the year.​

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