Dr. Anthony Fauci, top infectious disease expert and member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, said Tuesday he hopes to have a vaccine in advanced trials by late fall or early winter.
Fauci told the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee by video conference that the government is working on several potential vaccines for COVID-19. He is in self-quarantine after a White House staffer testified positive for the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, the novel coronavirus that emerged from China late last year and causes the respiratory disease.
“We have many candidates and hope to have many winners,” he told the committee. “In other words, it is many shots on goal,” Fauci said, noting that the government has at least eight candidate vaccines in clinical development.
He outlined the work on vaccines carried out so far, noting that on Jan. 14, work began on vaccine development, and now, 62 days later, “we are now in a phase-one clinical trial with the two doses fully enrolled.”
Referring specifically to a vaccine being developed with Moderna, Fauci said he expects a transition to phases two and three in late spring, early summer. “If we are successful, we hope to know that in the late fall and early winter,” he added.
But despite the rapid pace of work on vaccines, Fauci was offering no guarantees that the ones currently being evaluated in clinical trials will prove effective.
“We also, as the Chairman mentioned, will be producing vaccine at-risk, which means we’ll be investing considerable resources in developing doses even before we know any given candidate or candidates work,” Fauci said.
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate committee, is also undergoing self-quarantine for two weeks in his home state after a member of his staff tested positive. Alexander chaired the hearing virtually.
Fauci also warned that not only might some candidate vaccines under evaluation prove ineffective, the clinical trials might show them to be counterproductive.
“I must warn that there’s also the possibility of negative consequences, where certain vaccines can actually enhance the negative effect of the infection,” Fauci told the committee, adding that fundamental question the vaccine trials must answer is whether any of the candidates are actually effective.
“Will it be presence or absence, and how durable will it be?” Fauci said of the possible impacts of the vaccines under review.
Fauci also outlined the four-part strategic plan that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) follows in its COVID-19 response: improving the fundamental understanding of the virus and the disease it causes, developing new point-of-care diagnostics, characterizing and testing therapeutics, and developing safe and effective vaccines.
But while the race to develop a COVID-19 vaccine continues apace, polls show that when scientists do finally deliver, millions of Americans will refuse to take it.
Around 14 percent of Americans said they won’t get a COVID-19 vaccine, according to a poll by Morning Consult, conducted May 1-3 on a sample of 2,200 U.S. adults. The survey shows that 64 percent of Americans said they would get the vaccine, while 22 percent said they didn’t have an opinion on the subject or were undecided.