COVID-19 Vaccines and Emerging Viral Variants: Considerations for Governors

Vaccines and Emerging Viral Variants Cover Image

Policy Brief

COVID-19 Vaccines and Emerging Viral Variants: Considerations for Governors

Published date

March 10, 2021

Vaccines are critical tools that can reduce COVID-19 disease and help end the pandemic. The Biden Administration has set a goal to have 300 million individuals vaccinated across the United States by July 2021 and Governors are at the forefront of this vaccine distribution effort. Currently, approximately 2.16 million individuals are vaccinated every day and as supply increases, states and other providers will need to collectively accelerate vaccinations to an estimated 3 million per day to reach the 300 million goal on time. Adding urgency to this challenge, new and more transmissible COVID-19 viral variants are spreading across the country, increasing pressure on states to quickly vaccinate as many individuals as possible, while ensuring equity and maintaining other mitigation measures to limit viral transmission.

Although current vaccine supply is limited, production has been steadily increasing and the federal government has indicated there will be enough vaccine to vaccinate all adults in the U.S. by the end of May. Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine recently received emergency authorization and promising candidates from Novavax and AstraZeneca are nearing U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) review. This issue brief provides an overview of current evidence about the safety and efficacy of Johnson & Johnson’s recently authorized vaccine and additional vaccine candidates anticipated to receive near-term emergency authorization from the FDA. The brief also addresses the effectiveness of existing and upcoming vaccines against emerging COVID-19 viral variants, including what is known based on interim clinical trial results and preliminary studies and how Governors can address variants in the short- and long-term.

Duke-Margolis Authors

Image of Nicholas Harrison

Nicholas R. Harrison, MPH, MA

Senior Policy Analyst

Photo of Hemi Tewarson

Hemi Tewarson, MPH, JD

Visiting Senior Policy Fellow

Katie Greene

Katie Greene

Visiting Policy Associate