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Harris says she would absolutely take a vaccine if it was recommended by public health professionals, but not if only President Trump says to.

USA TODAY

The claim: COVID-19 vaccine will be ready in weeks, and the government will force everyone to get it

The global effort to develop a COVID-19 vaccine has been a priority since the coronavirus pandemic started. Seven months into the U.S. outbreak, vaccine candidates are facing skepticism by some in the general public and various elected officials.  

Leading health officials, such as Dr. Anthony Fauci, have maintained that a vaccine likely won’t be widely available until mid-2021. Meanwhile, President Donald Trump has promised a vaccine before Election Day, prompting the Democratic vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris to accuse Trump of politicizing the vaccine and to question its safety, noting that she would take it only if the health experts said it was safe.  

The effectiveness and safety of a COVID-19 vaccine is not the only thing people are worried about. Vaccine conspiracy theories that originated in anti-vaxxer communities have thrived anew in the COVID-19 era, including claims that the vaccine would implant microchips or that it will be mandatory for every American.

A post from from Before It’s News, a website that allows anyone to contribute, — which was shared 38,00 times as of Oct. 15 — furthers the conspiracy theory of a mandatory vaccine, with a headline reading, “The Government Has Released Their Initial Plans to Force a Vaccine on Everyone.”

The post also says, “Three potential vaccines are currently in Stage 3 trials in the United States and could be ready in weeks,” citing Trump.

USA TODAY reached out to the site’s Facebook page for comment.

We’ll look at the two claims here: Will a vaccine be mandatory? And, what does the development and distribution timeline really look like?

Will a vaccine be ready in weeks?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the general cycle for the development of a new vaccine has six stages: exploratory stage, pre-clinical stage, clinical development, regulatory review and approval, manufacturing and quality control. 

The global prioritization of finding a COVID-19 vaccine has shortened the timeline of its development, which for a regular vaccine would usually take years. However, vaccine developers and institutions like the CDC are following existing protocols to ensure the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness. 

As of Oct. 15, according to the World Health Organization, 42 vaccine candidates are in clinical evaluations and 156 are in preclinical evaluations.

16-year-old Katelyn Evans gets the first of two shots as part of a trial testing Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine in minors. (Photo: Cincinnati Children’s Hospital)

The post from Before It’s News cites a Sept. 15 comment from Trump where he said a vaccine could be ready in a “matter of weeks.” On Oct. 5, Trump said vaccines would be ready “momentarily.” However, scientists disagree.

On Sept. 16, Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the CDC, said that while an effective vaccine could be developed before the end of this year, it won’t be available to the general public until the second or third quarter of 2021. 

Will a COVID-19 vaccine be mandatory?

Speculation about mandatory vaccinations for COVID-19 started spreading on social media from the moment scientists began talks about developing a vaccine.

There is no evidence to support the claim that a COVID-19 vaccine will be mandatory for the entire population.

The post in question cites a COVID-19 vaccine interim playbook from the CDC, which was created in partnership with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Defense. The post misinterprets and misrepresents the content of the playbook, which does not state that everyone will be required to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

The playbook lays out the plan to effectively distribute the vaccine first to health and essential workers and vulnerable groups before increasing access to the general public.

At an August town hall hosted by Healthline, Fauci said the coronavirus vaccine won’t be mandatory in the United States, adding that people have a right to refuse it.

“I don’t think you’ll ever see a mandating of vaccine, particularly for the general public,” Fauci said.

Fauci also said some industries may mandate the vaccine for employees, such as how the National Institutes of Health mandates the flu vaccine for its workers. That also is in the playbook.

According to the CDC, “State laws establish vaccination requirements for school children … . All states provide medical exemptions, and some state laws also offer exemptions for religious and/or philosophical reasons.”

Additionally, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration took the position that employers can require staff to take vaccines, like the flu vaccination.

In general, employers can mandate vaccines for their staff. However, according to the National Law Review, this practice does have limitations and is not always recommended.

Like the exemptions that exist for school vaccine requirements, similar exemptions can also be applied to workers who have a reasonable belief that a medical condition may result in illness or death, according to OSHA.

“If someone refuses the vaccine in the general public, then there’s nothing you can do about that,” Fauci said. “You cannot force someone to take a vaccine.”

Our rating: False

The claims in the post have been rated FALSE. The claim that a vaccine will be ready within weeks, while stated by the president, has been consistently contradicted by public health officials who say a vaccine likely won’t be ready by Election Day, nor would it be available to the general public before the middle of 2021. There is also no evidence to support the claim that the coronavirus vaccine will be mandatory for the general public.

Our fact check sources:

  • Health Feedback, COVID-19 vaccines are not expected to be available for the public within several months, contrary to viral claim on social media
  • USA Today, Sept. 4, 2020, Exclusive: Two-thirds of Americans say they won’t get COVID-19 vaccine when it’s first available, USA TODAY/Suffolk Poll shows
  • World Health Organization, Oct. 2, 2020, Draft landscape of COVID-19 candidate vaccines
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Vaccine Testing and the Approval Process
  • The Guardian, Oct. 7, Covid vaccine tracker: When will a coronavirus vaccine be ready?
  • USA Today, Oct. 5, 2020, President Donald Trump says COVID-19 vaccines are coming ‘momentarily.’ Scientists say they’re not
  • CDC, Sept. 16, 2020, COVID-19 Vaccination Program Interim Playbook for
     Jurisdiction Operations 
  • Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Defense, From the Factory to the Frontlines, The Operation Warp Speed Strategy for Distributing a COVID-19 Vaccine
  • C-Span, Aug. 19, 2020, Dr. Fauci Discusses the Pandemic with George Washington University
  • Web MD, Aug. 20, 2020, COVID-19 Vaccine Likely Won’t Be Mandatory
  • The New York Times, Oct. 7, 2020, Coronavirus Vaccine Tracker

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Our fact check work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook.

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