Taking a meatloaf out of the oven too soon is an inconvenience, easily corrected by shoving it back in until it's ready.
Marketing a vaccine for COVID-19 too soon could be a disaster, with massive, far-reaching consequences. But that's what the U.S. government's Operation Warp Speed might make happen, with the goal of having a vaccine ready for distribution by year's end.
The problem is that vaccines aren't "found" or "discovered," like pretty shells on a beach, and if you just look enough, you'll find one. Vaccines are invented, developed, and tested, tested, tested, and that takes time. Biological factors could even make a vaccine impossible.
Measures are already in place to speed things along.
The FDA is collapsing protocols normally conducted in tandem into overlapping or parallel designs. They're allowing clinical trials to begin sooner following preclinical (non-human animal and cell-based) studies, expediting formation of institutional review boards to speed set-up of clinical trials, shifting reviewers from non-COVID projects to COVID ones, and enrolling thousands of people into clinical trials rather than the typical hundreds.
But will these measures be enough to roll out a vaccine six months from now? I don't think so.
To continue reading, go to my blog, DNA Science, at Public Library of Science.