Wednesday, June 3News That Matters

Coronavirus vaccine for United States possible by December, Dr. Anthony Fauci says; ‘I think it is conceivabl – MassLive.com

Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, is confident that the United States is on track for a coronavirus vaccine by late December or early January.

“I think it is conceivable, if we don’t run into things that are, as they say, unanticipated setbacks, that we could have a vaccine that we could be beginning to deploy at the end of this calendar year, December 2020, or into January, 2021,” he said in an interview with NPR’s “Morning Edition,” Friday morning.

He stressed that confidence doesn’t amount to a promise, and there are certainly issues that could derail the timeline. However, recent developments have only served to enhance his confidence. Most notably, the developments recently announced by Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Moderna Therapeutics.

Earlier this week, the company announced positive early results in Phase 1 of their vaccine study.

“The vaccine induced what we call ‘neutralizing antibodies’ as opposed to just ‘binding antibodies,’” Fauci explained. “‘Neutralizing antibodies’ are antibodies that actually can block the virus… they did it at a moderate dose of the vaccine. That’s the reason why we thought it would be good news.”

There are concerns about the data Moderna released because it is incomplete. According to Fauci, the company released partial results because they were especially promising, and his team at the NIAID is now compiling all of the early results so they can be submitted for peer review.

Phase 1 of a clinical trial involves testing on healthy volunteers in multiple doses. Moderna has adjusted its potential vaccine doses and is now preparing for Phase 2 of its study, which will involve a larger group of volunteers to test for safety and side effects. If it progresses to Phase 3, the sample size could expand into the thousands.

It’s possible that continued positive results could shift Moderna’s drug into the Operation Warp Speed protocol, meaning they’d start producing doses of the vaccine even sooner than usual.

“You do that at risk. In other words, you don’t wait until you get an answer. You start manufacturing,” he said last month in an appearance on NBC. “You at risk, proactively, start making it assuming it’s going to work. And if it does, then you can scale up and hopefully get to that timeline. So we want to go quickly, but we want to make sure it’s safe and it’s effective. I think it’s doable if things fall in the right place.”

Moderna recently received nearly half a billion dollars in federal funding to produce its experimental vaccine.

“Instead of waiting for the data and then scaling up with manufacturing process … we can make as many doses as we can. We are doing both in parallel,” Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel recently told CNBC. He says production of the vaccine could begin as soon as July, which could further accelerate the process making it available to the public.

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