How the Out-of-Control Pandemic Is Speeding the Hunt for Vaccines

The coronavirus is spreading out of control in the United States, overwhelming health systems and killing more than 1,100 Americans a day. But there is a slender silver lining: It is hastening the testing of vaccines that could eventually end the pandemic.

The surging virus has already allowed Pfizer and Moderna to accelerate the testing of their vaccines, which appear to be very effective at preventing Covid-19.

And if, as seems inevitable, the virus continues to proliferate — it is spreading faster than ever in the United States and some other countries — it is likely to speed the evaluations of promising vaccine candidates from other pharmaceutical companies.

“We are seeing something apocalyptic play out in terms of the level of transmission in the country right now,” said Dr. Peter Hotez, a vaccine scientist at the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine. “Unfortunately, this pandemic is still raging, and that affords lots of opportunities to look at vaccine efficacy.”

Over the last week, an average of more than 155,000 new Covid-19 cases have been confirmed each day in the United States. More than 166,000 were reported on Monday.

In late-stage vaccine trials, the faster that participants