COVID-19 Vaccine Could Be Like The Beanie Baby Bubble, Top Immunologist Says

A medical worker injects a volunteer with the EpiVacCorona vaccine against COVID-19, during post-registration clinical trials at Tyumen State Medical University (TMGMU). Maxim SlutskyTASS via Getty Images

As drugmakers and federal regulators near the finish line of delivering the first COVID-19 vaccine to the market, the American public seems to be warming up to the idea of taking a vaccine that’s developed with an untested technology in record time.

Six in 10 Americans said they would get a COVID-19 vaccine if it were available today, according to a new poll conducted by the Pew Research Center in late November. In a similar Pew survey two months earlier, only half of respondents said they would take a vaccine for the coronavirus.

Immunology experts predict that vaccine demand and acceptance will grow rapidly as more successful vaccines roll out of the lab—probably outpacing the production capacity of vaccine makers.

“I think this would be a desired vaccine,” Paul Offit, a renowned immunologist at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said of Pfizer’s BTN162b2 vaccine in a webinar hosted by The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) last week. “People talk about the anti-vaccine people being able to kind of squelch uptake. I don’t see that happening. This, to me, is more like the Beanie Baby phenomenon. You know, the attractiveness of a limited edition.”

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That’s exactly what happened with a flu shot in 2004, when a severe supply shortage led to long lines outside pharmacies, rationed doses and debates over distribution during that year’s flu season.

“That was a highly desired vaccine. I think in many ways that might happen here,” Offit said.

Offit is a member of the FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee, which is set to meet on Thursday to vote on Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine. If authorized, the first batch of 6.4 million doses could ship across the country as soon as Friday.

“We’ll spend the day on Thursday reviewing the data from Pfizer and at the end of the day a vote will be taken,” James Hildreth, another member of the FDA’s vaccine advisory committee, said in a statement on Saturday. “So, by the end of the day next Thursday, there could be a decision made about the vaccine.”

The Pfizer vaccine received an emergency use authorization in the U.K. last week. The first commercial dose is expected to be injected on Monday. The vaccine is also seeking emergency use authorization in India.

In the U.S., Moderna’s mRNA-1273 will be the next COVID-19 vaccine to be reviewed by the FDA. Between Pfizer and Moderna, federal officials plan to distribute up to 40 million doses by the end of this year to vaccinate 20 million people (both vaccines require two doses).

COVID-19 Vaccine Could Be Like The Beanie Baby Bubble, Top Immunologist Says