Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, told Congress Tuesday that he is “cautiously optimistic” about the development of a coronavirus vaccine, saying he believes it may be available later this year. or at the beginning of 2021.
Fauci’s update came during a House Energy and Commerce Committee on the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. Fauci testified along with other top officials leading the nation’s efforts against the coronavirus, specifically Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Robert Redfield, Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration Steven Hahn, and Secretary Health Assistant Brett Giroir.
“We are cautiously optimistic, based on concerted effort and the fact that we are taking financial risks, not security risks, not science integrity risks, but financial risks in order to be at the forefront of the game, so when, and I think it will be when, and not, if we get favorable candidates with good results, we can make them available to the American public, “Fauci said Tuesday.” It would put us at the end of this calendar year and early 2021. “
Fauci referred to at least one vaccine trial, led by biotech firm Moderna, which is expected to enter the Phase 3 study in July, where a small dose of vaccine will be administered to approximately 30,000 people to test its effectiveness. Fauci said other promising vaccine candidates are only a few months behind.
The Moderna trials have received a lot of attention for the “intermediate positive” data from the firm’s Phase 1 trial, the results of which were reported in May. But even as the vaccine accelerates to Phase 3, the company is still compiling data from previous trials. In the race to discover a vaccine, the FDA has loosened the rules and allowed trials to be merged or run simultaneously.
Fauci and colleagues emphasized that they will not launch a vaccine until it is safe and effective. “Acceleration is not cutting corners when it comes to evaluating safety and efficacy,” said Hahn, the FDA commissioner. “The American people can trust the fact that the FDA has many experts in the area of vaccines.”
As Vox’s Umair Irfan has written, without the treatments available for Covid-19, the entire world is rushing to discover a vaccine. But there are still many things that are not clear, even if a vaccine will grant immunity for life or will last only a couple of years. And such a fast schedule, a year-end vaccine, is unprecedented. The previous record for mumps is four years.
Some experts are still skeptical of this ambitious timeline, just 12 to 18 months after the new coronavirus began to spread: “It is conceivable that we can have something on that timeline, if everything goes well,” Kendall Hoyt, vaccines and biosecurity expert at Dartmouth, he told German Lopez of Vox in May.
And an optimistic new timeline for a vaccine doesn’t lessen the current coronavirus emergency in the United States, where many states are seeing spikes in cases and positivity rates.
As Fauci testified at Tuesday’s hearing, the United States’ response to the pandemic is “mixed.” Places affected by the coronavirus, such as New York City, have mitigated the spread, reduced infection rates, and are on a gradual reopening plan.
“However, in other areas we are seeing a disturbing increase in infections,” Fauci told the House panel. He said this required tests to identify and isolate cases to stop the spread, and contact tracing to understand where infections originate, so that states and localities can intervene. “Right now, the next two weeks will be critical to our ability to address those waves that we are seeing in Florida, Texas, Arizona and other states,” said Fauci. “They are not the only ones who have difficulties. In short, it is a mixed bag. “
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