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Fauci Still 'Cautiously Optimistic' There Will Be COVID-19 Vaccine by Early 2021

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Fauci Still 'Cautiously Optimistic' There Will Be COVID-19 Vaccine by Early 2021

2020-07-10 15:11:20

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Anthony Fauci (Image source: Screenshot)

It's very disconcerting to see the coronavirus still surging in the United States. Last month, with several states reopening, it seemed maybe we were over the hump and that we just needed to wait for the possible second wave.

But it turns out we can't even make it out of the first wave. Some southern and western states — including Texas, Florida, Arizona, and California — reopened earlier and are now experiencing bigger surges than they did to begin with.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, who is also on the White House Coronavirus Task Force, believes those states need to shut down again. He's also "cautiously optimistic" that there will be a vaccine late this year still and, if not, early next year.

During a virtual United Nations event this week, the doctor said global "collaboration and transparency" would be required to contain the novel coronavirus.

"We've adapted a strategic approach to get multiple candidates to be conducted in trials in a harmonized way ... so that you can bridge one study to another," he said during the virtual event.

The World Health Organization has observed that there are 21 vaccine candidates that are at different points in development in clinical trials. This includes advanced Phase 3 trials as well. And if none of those 21 work out, there are at least another 139 that are going through pre-clinical evaluation.

At phase 3 of a clinical trial, a drug is usually tested on between 300 and 3,000 volunteers who have the disease or condition it's being developed for. It's tested this way for effectiveness and to monitor whether there are any side effects, serious or not.

One of the most promising vaccine candidates, Fauci said, is being developed by Moderna, an American biotechnology company. It's due to enter Phrase 3 trials around the end of the month. Others will be starting the same phase in August, September, and October.

After seeing the early data from the Moderna trial, Fauci said it makes him "cautiously optimistic, although you can never, ever predict with any certainty whether a vaccine is going to be safe and effective."

"The early data on these trials have a cautious optimism that we will be successful at least in developing a vaccine with some degree of efficacy by the end of the year, the beginning of 2021," Fauci added.

Other scientists believe the same, that a vaccine could be ready by the end of the year and if not early next year.

Andy Slavitt, the former acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services under former President Barack Obama, posted a Twitter message thread detailing the views of three scientists who had not seen the data on the current vaccine trials.

The three told Slavitt that the first vaccine could arrive as early as this fall. Several others will follow it, and the vaccines will get progressively better.

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which he heads up, announced it was establishing a new network of vaccine clinical trials. The COVID-19 Prevention Trials Network plans to enroll thousands of volunteers across at least five of the trials.

"Having a safe and effective medical countermeasure to prevent COVID-19 would enable us to not only save lives but also help end the global pandemic," Fauci said in a statement.

"Centralizing our clinical research efforts into a single trials network will expand the resources and expertise needed to efficiently identify safe and effective vaccines and other prevention strategies against COVID-19."

The three scientists Slavitt spoke with believe it's likely the first vaccines will be similar to flu vaccines in terms of effectiveness. Flu vaccines usually reduce the risk of illness between 40 and 60 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

With the surge in cases in Florida, Arizona, California, and Texas, it's turning these states into new COVID-19 epicenters. Donald Trump has pushed the health experts and their concerns to the side so that he can focus on reviving the economy before Election Day.

But he can't push aside the stats. The U.S. reported more than 800 deaths from the virus on three consecutive days this week. On Tuesday there were 929 deaths. This could be showing that the fatality rate is catching up to the recent surge. 

Fauci advises that the states experiencing the surges seriously consider "shutting down" again.

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