- Dr. Fauci said in an interview that a coronavirus vaccine will be ready by the end of the year.
- The prediction seems to mark a change in tone from Fauci, compared to his previous vaccine comments that offered “cautious” optimism about COVID-19 vaccine research.
- The health expert said that he would not be comfortable with a vaccine getting an emergency use approval without a clinical trial proving the experimental drugs work as intended, and it’s safe for public use.
The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci, has had a lot to say in the past few days about the novel coronavirus vaccines that have reached Phase 3 testing. That’s the final round of research, at the end of which we’ll have clear answers about these experimental drugs.
Three vaccine candidates reached Phase 3 in the US, including Moderna, Pfizer/BioNTech, and AstraZeneca/Oxford, but there are more than 170 vaccine efforts worldwide. Some of them will start testing in America soon. Recent developments from Russia and China on the COVID-19 vaccine emergency usage front, as well as speculation that President Trump will want to have a vaccine approved by early November, prompted Fauci to respond to various questions about the final stage of testing. The infectious disease expert made it clear that emergency use authorization (EUA) should not be issued until these drugs prove they’re safe and effective for general use.
But Fauci also added that we might know by November whether some of these Phase 3 drugs work, and explained under what conditions the final trials can be stopped before the research process is finalized. In a new interview, Fauci went on record to say that there will be a safe and effective vaccine by the end of the year.
Fauci said in previous interviews that he was “cautiously optimistic” that there will be a vaccine for the illness, as he looked at the latest COVID-19 vaccine research data He now appears to be more confident that the positive answers the world expects are coming, and they’re coming fast. “I believe that by the time we get to the end of this calendar year that we will feel comfortable that we do have a safe and effective vaccine,” Fauci said on NBC’s Today show.
The health expert explained in older interviews that there’s no way to tell what will happen with vaccines, and there are no guarantees they’ll prove to be effective in the final trials. Phase 1 and 2 trials showed so far that the drugs are safe, although Phase 3 will also have to confirm that.
Fauci’s shift in tone in his comments to NBC can’t go unnoticed. Fauci said before that he hoped a vaccine would be ready by the end of the year, with public availability to start several months into 2021, after at-risk groups of people are immunized. But he now appears to be more convinced that Phase 3 trials will deliver at least one positive response as soon as late 2020.
Russia has already approved a COVID-19 vaccine for public use, even though Phase 3 did not even start at the time the announcement was made. Russia is yet to share scientific data about the drug. That’s what prompted many experts to criticize Russia’s approach, Fauci included. China has three drugs in Phase 3 trials, and all of them received EUAs. But there’s already research for all of these Chinese experimental drugs that prove they elicit the desired immune response and that they’re safe. That said, there are no guarantees that any of the Russian and Chinese vaccine candidates will ultimately help officials prevent the spread of the illness, just as there are no guarantees about the vaccines from Moderna, Pfizer, and AstraZeneca.
Fauci did make it clear during the interview that he would not be comfortable with a vaccine getting emergency approval unless a clinical trial proved its effectiveness and safety.