Dr. Fauci Reveals When U.S. Could Have COVID-19 Vaccine

Dr. Anthony Fauci, an immunologist and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases who serves on the White House Coronavirus Task Force, said the Trump administration is pushing to develop a vaccine for COVID-19 and could have one ready to go by January.
“We want to go quickly, but we want to make sure it’s safe and it’s effective,” Fauci said on NBC’s “Today” show on Thursday. “I think that is doable if things fall in the right place.”
Asked by host Savannah Guthrie whether hundreds of millions of doses could be ready by January, Fauci said that’s possible.
“But just remember, go back in time,” he said. “I was saying in January and February that it would be a year to 18 months. So January is a year. So it isn’t that much from what I had originally said.”
The federal government has set up an initiative called “Operation Warp Speed,” which combines private pharmaceutical companies, government agencies and the military in an effort to crunch down the time it takes to produce a vaccine. The usual time, with complete testing on a broad spectrum of humans, often runs up to two years.
“The project’s goal is to have 300 million doses of vaccine available by January, according to one administration official. There is no precedent for such rapid development of a vaccine,” Bloomberg News reported.
Last month, Trump directed Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to speed development of a vaccine, and administration officials have been meeting on the effort for three to four weeks, one of the people said. A meeting on the project was scheduled at the White House on Wednesday.
The people familiar with the project and the administration officials asked not to be identified because it hasn’t yet been publicly announced.
A spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services, Michael Caputo, said the president refused to accept the timeline for standard vaccine development and encouraged a breakthrough process.
Meanwhile, word emerged Wednesday that remdesivir, a drug used to treat Ebola, may also be useful in treating COVID-19, with the drug meeting its “primary endpoint” in official testing, the biotech giant Gilead Sciences announced.
The antiviral drug has been in tests with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases’ (NIAID). The trial included 397 patients, evaluating the safety and efficacy of five-day and 10-day dosing regimens of remdesivir in hospitalized patients with severe symptoms of COVID-19.
“Gilead Sciences. Inc. is aware of positive data emerging from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases’ (NIAID) study of the investigational antiviral remdesivir for the treatment of COVID-19. We understand that the trial has met its primary endpoint and that NIAID will provide detailed information at an upcoming briefing,” the company said in a statement.
Reaching the primary endpoint would mean that patients who took remdesivir recovered more quickly than those taking a placebo, Business Insider reported.
“Certainly it’s a very positive event,” Trump said.
Fauci also weighed in on the development, saying, “This is very optimistic, the mortality rate trended towards being better in the sense of less deaths in the REM designate group. 8% versus 11% in the placebo group. So bottom line. You’re going to hear more details about this this will be submitted to a peer reviewed journal, and will be peer reviewed appropriately.”
Scientists at Oxford University also announced this week that their tests for a potential COVID-19 vaccine has so far proven effective on rhesus macaque monkeys, which were inoculated at a lab in Montana in May and stayed healthy for a full month despite repeated exposure to the virus, The New York Times reported.
While the findings don’t mean the vaccine will also work on humans, rhesus macaque monkeys are as close a test subject as can be used. The researchers hope to move forward with human testing on more than 6,000 people by the end of May.
Said the Times:
Most other teams have had to start with small clinical trials of a few hundred participants to demonstrate safety. But scientists at the university’s Jenner Institute had a head start on a vaccine, having proved in previous trials that similar inoculations — including one last year against an earlier coronavirus — were harmless to humans.
That has enabled them to leap ahead and schedule tests of their new coronavirus vaccine involving more than 6,000 people by the end of next month, hoping to show not only that it is safe, but also that it works.
The Oxford scientists now say that with an emergency approval from regulators, the first few million doses of their vaccine could be available by September — at least several months ahead of any of the other announced efforts — if it proves to be effective.
Now, they have received promising news suggesting that it might.
Scientists at the National Institutes of Health’s Rocky Mountain Laboratory in Montana last month inoculated six rhesus macaque monkeys with single doses of the Oxford vaccine. The animals were then exposed to heavy quantities of the virus that is causing the pandemic — exposure that had consistently sickened other monkeys in the lab. But more than 28 days later all six were healthy, said Vincent Munster, the researcher who conducted the test.
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