But many experts surveyed also believe vaccine development will take place at an accelerated rate — ScienceDaily


Experts working in the field of vaccine development tend to believe that an effective vaccine is not likely to be available for the general public before the fall of 2021. In a paper published this week in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, a McGill-led team published the results of a recent survey of 28 experts working in vaccinology.

The survey was carried out in late June 2020. The majority of those surveyed were mostly Canadian or American academics with an average of 25 years of experience working in the field.

“Experts in our survey offered forecasts on vaccine development that were generally less optimistic than the timeline of early 2021 offered by US public officials. In general they seem to believe that a publicly available vaccine next summer is the best-case scenario with the possibility that it may take until 2022,” said Jonathan Kimmelman, a James McGill professor and the director of the Biomedical Ethics Unit at McGill University and the senior author on the paper.

Many experts also believe that there may be some false starts before an effective vaccine is available. “The experts we surveyed believe that there is a 1 in 3 chance that the vaccine will receive a safety warning label after approval, and a 4 in 10 chance that the first large field study will not report efficacy,” added Patrick Kane, the lead author, who is a decision scientist and postdoctoral fellow at McGill University.

Predicting timelines for vaccine development

Experts were asked to make timeline forecasts for three milestones in vaccine development. More specifically, experts were asked for their best, soonest, and latest estimates for when each of the following milestone would occur:

1. Question: When will a vaccine be available to the general public in the USA and/or Canada?


  • best

Most publics surveyed had positive views of their medical treatments before COVID-19


Looking across the 20 publics surveyed, majorities considered their medical treatments to rank above those of other publics globally. Views of medical treatments were often seen more favorably than achievements in other areas, including science, technology, STEM education, politics and the economy. In the U.S., however, 61% said their scientific achievements were at least above average, while more – 55% – said the same about their medical treatments. And in India, similarly sized majorities saw their country as above average or the best in the world across a number of areas. (The survey was conducted before the coronavirus outbreak reached pandemic proportions.)

Large majorities saw value from government investment in scientific research, saying that such investment is usually worthwhile for society over time. Majorities also generally considered it at least somewhat important to be a world leader in scientific research. But the share who considered their scientific achievements at least above average often lagged behind the share saying it was very important to be a world leader in science.

Many see their medical treatments in a favorable light; fewer say the same about STEM education for primary and secondary school students

Across the 20 publics, a median of 59% say their medical treatments are at least above average, with some of the highest ratings in the Asia-Pacific region. In South Korea and Taiwan, for example, 80% say their medical treatments are at least above average. By contrast, only 6% in Brazil and 13% in Poland think their medical treatments are the best in the world or above average.

Medians of 45% and 42% say their technological and scientific achievements are at least above average, respectively. Perceptions of areas of relative strength vary by public. In the UK, the U.S. and Japan, majorities give positive ratings to both their technological and