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COVID-19 trials enter late stages, here's when you should expect a vaccine

Yahoo Finance's Anjalee Khemlani joins the On the Move panel to break down the timeline for a COVID-19 vaccine as companies enter late stage trials.

Video Transcript

ADAM SHAPIRO: Welcome back to Yahoo Finance "On the Move." We got some healthy gains right now on the markets. So the S&P 500 is up a little bit more than half a percent. Dow is up almost half a percent. NASDAQ is up over 1%. We are watching the race for a vaccine. We heard news from Johnson & Johnson, also Novavax. There are multiple vaccines in the pipeline. Anjalee Khemlani keeps an eye on this for us. What's the vaccine check-up? Where do we stand with the front-runners, Anjalee?

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: Thanks, Adam. So as of right now, we know that Moderna and Pfizer are those two companies, Pfizer with their partner BioNTech, that are in the front. We're expecting to hear some results from their phase 3 trials within a month or so actually. So by the end of October, early November, that's when we'll get the earliest indication of whether or not it actually works. And what's interesting about those is obviously there are newer technologies untested on the market, so really a very interesting race that we have these two in the front.

Meanwhile, we know Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca are also in phase 3 right now. AstraZeneca on hold in the US until further notice based on a-- an issue in the UK. Even though the UK has restarted its trials, we're still waiting to hear word on that. And Novavax now out with some news today-- sorry, late yesterday-- saying that they're starting their phase 3 in the UK, and they expect to start in the US in October.

ADAM SHAPIRO: Anjalee, what's the timeline for a vaccine right now?

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: Right now, like I mentioned, we're going to hear, you know, the results by next-- by the end of next month. But what we're looking at is sort of a limited rollout by the end of the year, so possibly by late November, but most likely in December is what we've heard from several health experts, including the top government health officials in the country.

So that's where it looks for the limited use that's based off an emergency use authorization by the FDA, although we have heard that the FDA is looking to possibly extend the observation period and therefore possibly even extend when that comes out. But really, Q2 of 2021 is where we're looking at more widespread availability, at least of the first to market, and possibly even from Johnson & Johnson. Based on just the various technologies and what goes into that, that's really going to dictate the timeline and where we see some of these candidates show up.

JULIE HYMAN: And there are obstacles still, Anjalee, but-- even once that happens, right? You have to get it out there, you have to distribute the vaccine, you have to [AUDIO OUT] how they do. What do we know about that process?

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: That's correct. So that's where a lot of attention has been shifting, at least sort of in the health space. There have been comments and concerns about what the distribution process looks like. Because as I mentioned, Pfizer and Moderna are-- are using this untested technology. That means the infrastructure is brand new.

And while they have been working on it knowing that they have deep freeze requirements and-- and just the training that is going to be needed for clinicians to deliver this without degrading the quality of the vaccines, there is still that concern about just how much can be ramped up in time. Meanwhile, you know, we have Johnson & Johnson in the race that already has tested its infrastructure with the Ebola vaccine, which is a similar technology to what it's using now.

So that's already set up for the standard sort of refrigeration that we know is required of vaccines. But because of these colder temperatures that are needed, that's one of the major concerns. Another thing is also tracking patients. So while we know that, you know, for the flu vaccine, for example, it's not certain that every single person takes it, and that is sort of the idea behind herd immunity that-- that we've all been hearing about.

But the idea that not everyone could take the vaccine is a concern, how to make sure that individuals who are getting the vaccine follow up with the very same company as a booster shot, which is the only way to guarantee, you know, the-- the results that are required. So a lot goes into this.

And they are working on that infrastructure with state registries that are hopefully going to be able to talk to each other so we have this sort of national database, but it's unclear whether or not that is going to be effective. So, you know, it-- it just all plays into this health care system that we know is already porous when it comes to tracking patients in general and how that'll work out when it comes to this specific vaccine.

ADAM SHAPIRO: Anjalee, very quickly, once a vaccine is on the market doesn't mean we're out of the-- the woods yet, right?

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: That's correct. And going back to not having any sort of guarantee about anyone taking it, but in addition not really knowing, you know, whether or not it will last as long. The durability of these vaccines hasn't been tested just yet. And so without that information, we can't tell. And-- and just going back to, you know, social distancing, masking, all that stuff that we've come to learn as a new normal without a vaccine is still going to be required.

I actually spoke to Dr. William Schaffner at-- at Vanderbilt, and he gave a great example of what-- what that really looks like. It's like slices of Swiss cheese, he says, packed together. So each slice, each thing, social distancing, masking, has its own positives and its own protections that it offers, but also has gaps.

As we heard recently in Texas, you know possibly a mutation of the virus that bypasses all of these protections. So really keeping an eye on this, something that is still being learned about, and so that's where we are. While we do know more than we did earlier this year, still waiting to see what we can learn about this virus and the vaccine.