At least eight candidates for a coronavirus vaccine are in the clinical development stage, and some could be ready as early as the “late fall”, Anthony Fauci, the US’ top infectious disease expert, has told senators.
“The [National Institutes of Health] has been collaborating with a number of pharmaceutical companies at various stages of development,” Mr Fauci said, in testimony on Tuesday.
The White House infectious disease guru also suggested that his previous projection that it would take at least a year to 18 months before a vaccine was ready does not appear to be accurate.
“The NIH trial moved very quickly,” Mr Fauci said.
“On January 10 the sequence was know. On [11 January] the Vaccine Research Centre met and developed a plan. On the 14th of January, we officially started the vaccine development. Sixty-two days later, we are now in phase one clinical trial with the two doses already fully enrolled. The phase one will directly go into phase two, three in late spring and early summer. And if we are successful, we hope to know that in the late fall, and early winter,” Mr Fauci said.
Not all of the eight candidates are likely to succeed, he added.
“We have many candidates that hope to have multiple winners. In other words, it’s multiple shots on goal. This will be important, because this will be good for global availability, if we have more than one successful candidate,” he said.
The Trump administration is attempting to fast-track the development and production of a vaccine for the Covid-19 that would give the US the ability to inoculate 300m people by January 2021.
The administration is calling the Manhattan Project-style vaccination programme “Operation Warp Speed,” Bloomberg News reported in April, and is hoping to cut the time before rolling out an effective vaccine to the masses by as many as eight months.
As part of that plan, the administration is moving ahead with production of the vaccines “at risk”, meaning that companies will be manufacturing large quantities of doses before scientists know for certain whether they’re effective.
“We’ll be investing considerable resources in developing doses, even before we know any given candidate or candidates work,” Mr Fauci said. “I must warn that there’s also the possibility of negative consequences, where certain vaccines can actually enhance the negative effect of the infection,” he said.
The general public will not receive doses of any ineffective or harmful vaccines.
The administration is betting that such waste is a relatively small price to pay in order to speed the mass production process, get the American public inoculated much more quickly, and thus begin shedding many of the social distancing restrictions that have crippled the US economy.
The vaccine programme coordinates and streamlines the efforts of dozens of pharmaceutical companies, the US departments of Defence and Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Food and Drug Administration. It would divert the monetary risk of failed vaccine prototypes from drug companies to taxpayers, and is likely to cost billions of dollars, per reporting by multiple news outlets.
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