Anticipation is building for the first coronavirus vaccines to become available to Americans. Four drugmakers are currently conducting late-stage clinical studies for experimental COVID-19 vaccines, with a fifth company planning to begin late-stage testing of its vaccine candidate by the end of November.
The arrival of one or more safe and effective vaccines will definitely be a major milestone in the battle to control the COVID-19 pandemic. However, these vaccines won't be everything that everyone wants them to be. Here are three things about the coronavirus vaccines that could be on the way that you almost certainly won't like.
1. They won't be 100% effective
Let's assume that Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) and BioNTech (NASDAQ:BNTX) report great results and win FDA emergency use authorization for their COVID-19 vaccine BNT162b2 before the end of this year. Suppose that Moderna (NASDAQ:MRNA) also secures EUA for its vaccine, mRNA-1273. At some point over the following months in this hypothetical scenario, you would be able to receive one of these vaccines (or one of the other leading candidates that might make it to market).
After you're vaccinated, you won't have to worry about getting COVID-19, right? Think again. It's a virtual certainty that none of the vaccines will be 100% effective. Unfortunately, there's a decent chance that you could receive a coronavirus vaccine yet still be diagnosed with COVID-19.
The FDA's threshold for efficacy is actually pretty low -- only 50%.Sure, we all hope that the coronavirus vaccines that become available to Americans are a whole lot more effective than flipping a coin. However, there's no guarantee that will be the case.
2. You might have to take two doses
No one likes to get a vaccine shot. It's a hassle to go to your healthcare provider to be vaccinated. Having a needle stuck in your arm isn't fun. You also face the possibility of side effects, some of which can make you feel especially crummy.
Now take all of those negatives and double them. There's a very good chance that you'll have to receive two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, one dose several weeks after the first dose.
Pfizer's and BioNTech's coronavirus vaccine requires two doses. So does Moderna's vaccine. Ditto for the COVID-19 vaccines being developed by AstraZeneca (NASDAQ:AZN) and Novavax (NASDAQ:NVAX). Of the leaders in the coronavirus vaccine race, only Johnson & Johnson's (NYSE:JNJ) JNJ-78436735 is a one-and-done option.
J&J is lagging behind Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, and AstraZeneca, though. Why? Because it started late-stage testing after the others and had to temporarily pause its study due to a potential safety issue (one that didn't turn out to be a problem after further investigation). If these companies' coronavirus vaccines win EUA, you could end up receiving one of them before J&J's vaccine is available.
3. They'll likely be the new normal
Some Americans might envision a not-too-distant future where COVID-19 is a thing of the past. No vaccines, no masks, no problems. The masks probably won't be necessary down the road if all goes well. However, don't count on the need for coronavirus vaccines to go away; they'll probably be the new normal.
It seems probable that COVID-19 will be akin to the flu in some ways. It will rear its ugly head on a regular basis. Anyone who receives the vaccine, though, will have less of a chance of being infected. If they are infected, the vaccine could help reduce the severity of the symptoms.
The good news
I'm sorry to dish out this discouraging outlook. However, there's still plenty of good news.
First of all, even if COVID-19 vaccines aren't as effective as desired, they should still help tremendously in curbing the spread of the novel coronavirus. That will help move us past the mask-wearing phase we've been in for months. And you can keep your fingers crossed that efficacy levels are really high.
While most of the current leaders in the coronavirus vaccine race require two doses, there are others in early stage testing that, like J&J's vaccine, only require one dose. Even better, some companies are developing vaccines that don't require an injection. Gulping down a couple of tablets would be much preferable to getting a shot. It's still early, though, so don't get your hopes up too much just yet.
The new normal of getting a COVID-19 vaccine every year also might not be as bad as it seems, either. Novavax, for example, hopes to develop a combo flu/COVID-19 vaccine. If it's successful, you potentially won't have to receive any more shots than you are now (assuming that you're getting your flu vaccine each year).
Finally, there's the investing angle. This is a Motley Fool article, after all, so we can't forget investors. There are several biotech stocks and pharma stocks that provide attractive opportunities for investors. Some of these stocks could soar over the next few months even more than they've already done. Pardon the pun, but COVID-19 vaccines just might give you a shot at making a lot of money.