Coronavirus: Doctor tells Congress he developed vaccine years ago but 'could never get funding' to start trials

'We had the vaccine ready to go,' infectious disease experts tell congressional committee while urging for more research funding

Chris Riotta
New York
Thursday 05 March 2020 16:18
Comments
Coronavirus: Doctor tells Congress he developed vaccine years ago but 'could never get funding' to start trials

A team of scientists created a vaccine that may have been able to prevent the deadly coronavirus outbreak, but they were never able to get funding to commence clinical trials, experts told Congress on Thursday.

Dr Peter Hotez, co-director of the Centre for Vaccine Development at Texas Children's Hospital, testified before the House Science, Space and Technology Committee as health officials confirmed at least 160 cases of the Wuhan coronavirus in at least 17 states across the country.

“We had the vaccine ready to go," the doctor told lawmakers about a vaccine his team developed to protect against a strain of coronavirus in 2016, but "by then nobody was interested in a coronavirus vaccine."

Dr Hotez said the vaccine his team created in response to SARS may provide patients with cross-protection from the new strain of coronavirus that has caused more than 3,200 deaths worldwide, the majority of those cases resulting in China where the illness was believed to have originated.

But he explained that his team attempted to secure funding from investors in order to move the vaccine into the clinical trial phase, but a decade had gone by since SARS spread across China, and agencies were not focused on preventing another coronavirus outbreak.

He also warned against “inflated claims about vaccines coming in weeks,” saying the process to manufacture and distribute a vaccine to combat the new coronavirus will take much longer than some officials have estimated.

He noted a previous study testing similar vaccines that resulted in two deaths, and said any trials for a potential vaccine would “have to proceed very cautiously, very slowly”.

Dr Hotez was joined by a panel of infectious disease experts on Thursday when he warned of the “unique potential safety problems” that arise in testing coronavirus vaccines.

"It's tragic that we won't have a vaccine ready for this epidemic," Dr Hotez said in his opening remarks, a copy of which was shared with NBC News. "Practically speaking, we'll be fighting these outbreaks with one hand tied behind our backs."

The Independent’s health correspondent Shaun Lintern noted in response to the doctor’s claims that “most cases where new strains of viruses emerge, vaccines need to be changed and that requires time and testing and trials, which can take months.”

“Even if this vaccine could be adapted it would be unlikely to be useful now or for many months”, he added.

Dr Susan Murray, program director of the Smithsonian Global Health Programme, also testified on Thursday that the coronavirus was “not a surprise” to experts who had been researching the spread of similar infectious diseases in recent years.

“These pandemics are coming,” she said, while calling on Congress to bring experts from different fields and countries to combat the potential crisis.

“We look at the economy globally,” she said, “it’s really time that we look at health globally.”

The doctor also told lawmakers scientists have found several other strains of coronavirus in China.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in