Dr. Anthony Fauci said that judging by current development schedules, a successful vaccine would be more likely be ready by the end of 2020.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top US infectious-disease expert, has said that a coronavirus vaccine for the US probably won’t be ready in time for the November presidential election.
His remarks contrasted with President Donald Trump’s and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) strong suggestions that a vaccine would be ready by November 3.
Speaking at the Research America Virtual National Health Research Forum on Tuesday, Fauci said “it’s not impossible” that there will be a vaccine by that time, “but it’s unlikely that we’ll have a definitive answer.”
Fauci’s estimate is later than that hinted by the CDC in a recent letter to governors, which asked states to be primed to distribute a vaccine by November 1 — two days before in-person voters go to the polls.
Trump has often chimed with Fauci’s assessment of a possible vaccine by the end of the year. But on Monday, the president hinted that a vaccine may be ready before the presidential election, telling reporters: “We’re going to have a vaccine very soon. Maybe even before a special date. You know what date I’m talking about.”
Insiders to Operation Warp Speed, the Trump administration’s effort to support vaccine development, have expressed concerns that the process is being overly pressured to fit the election timetable. The White House denies this is the case.
According to The New York Times, a pre-election vaccine is referred to as “The Holy Grail” by those on Trump’s campaign team.
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and his running mate Sen. Kamala Harris issued a joint statement on Tuesday asking President Trump to publicly commit to being guided by science, rather than politics, in the race to develop a vaccine.
There are currently 176 efforts to develop a vaccine worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.
At the Tuesday conference, Fauci explained the rationale behind his end-of-year timing estimate.
The government is helping the development of six or seven vaccine different vaccine candidates, he said, with three of those already in a Phase 3 trials — meaning they are ready to enrol volunteers to try it.
Two of those three will have enough volunteers by the end of September, Fauci said.
These vaccines use a “prime and boost” method, which consist of a first dose followed 28 or more days later by a “boost” dose.
“You add another month, a month and a half, to get that second dose,” Fauci said. “So that’s the reason why I have been projecting that by the end of the year, by November, December, we will know whether we have a safe and effective vaccine.”
With two other vaccine candidates also ready to be trialed in September or October, Fauci said that “we’re optimistic that we will be successful with one or more, and that will likely start taking place by the end of the calendar year 2020.”
But asked if there would be a vaccine by November 3, he said he thinks that’s “unlikely.”
“The only way you can see that scenario come true is if that there are so many infections in the clinical trial sites that you get an efficacy answer sooner than you would have projected,” he said. “Like I said, it’s not impossible, but it’s unlikely that we’ll have a definitive answer at that time. More likely by the end of the year.”