Doctors say more COVID-19 vaccines must get approved to speed up rollout

NOW: Doctors say more COVID-19 vaccines must get approved to speed up rollout

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Despite a big push by the Biden administration, the U.S. is not quite at a million COVID-19 vaccinations a day yet, but doctors say we must get there. While there are two vaccines currently available, health experts say more are needed to accommodate a faster rollout.

Pharmaceutical giant Merck announced Monday they’re ending development for two experimental COVID-19 vaccines, removing a key player from coming out with yet another vaccine in the fight against COVID-19.

“That’s a setback when a company like Merck is no longer pursuing a vaccine,” said Ali Mokdad, PhD, population health chief strategy officer for the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME).

“They thought that the immunity that you could get just from recovering from COVID-19 would probably be better than the vaccine that they were developing,” said Dr. William Hartman, UW-Health principal investigator, AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine trial.

While Merck dropping out is a setback, at least two more developers are on their way to coming out with new COVID-19 vaccines, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca.

For AstraZeneca, Dr. Hartman says an application for FDA approval will probably be closer to early spring. He says the next two months will be dedicated to figuring out its efficacy in U.S. trials.

“The UK data suggests about 70-percent effectivity, but 100-percent effective against hospitalizations and serious illness,” adds Dr. Hartman.

“We need more companies to manufacture vaccines, we need the help here in our country in order to make that production much more efficient” says Mokdad.

Meanwhile experts say Johnson & Johnson, whose vaccine only requires a single shot, is on a quicker path to approval. The single-shot COVID-19 vaccine is an encouraging sign to doctors.

“I expect them to file for FDA approval in the United States in the coming weeks, maybe couple of weeks, and they should be able. From what we know so far from Johnson & Johnson, it’s 90-percent effective,” Mokdad said.

“That’s certainly going to help improve the rate of vaccinations throughout United States and throughout the world, a one-shot vaccine could be a game changer,” adds Dr. Hartman.

While doctors say the rollout is slower than expected, they do believe vaccinations will start to pick up soon as larger mass vaccination centers begin to open and more developers come out with vaccines.

“Hopefully the general public can begin to be vaccinated by the early part of summer,” Dr. Hartman says.

Mokdad says there’s also concern with mask-wearing amid the vaccine rollout. In his recent research surveys, 25-percent of Americans are saying once they get the vaccine, they will not be wearing a mask.

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