Dr. Anthony Fauci delivered more good news regarding a potential coronavirus vaccine, indicating some Americans could begin getting vaccinated by the end of this month.
During an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said it’s possible a vaccine could begin reaching some Americans by the end of the month, but was confident some would begin getting vaccinated by the end of the year.
Fauci’s declaration came on the same day Pfizer said that its Phase 3 vaccine candidate was showing an effectiveness of over 90%. Fauci said the announcement was promising, but a few more questions need to be addressed before it is given approval. Fauci said that things like the vaccine’s durability and effect on the elderly are among concerns that still need to be tackled.
“We may have doses that we’re able to give to people by the end of November, beginning of December,” Fauci told CNN’s Blitzer. “Now you have to go through the hoops of making sure all of the I’s are dotted and the T’s are crossed about the safety and regulatory aspects of it, but we would be giving vaccine, very likely, by the end of this year. That is good news.”
Last month, the FDA put into place guidelines on approving a vaccine, which was more restrictive than what the White House had hoped for. The FDA noted that a vaccine candidate must be at least 50% effective. Vaccine candidates should include a median follow-up duration of at least two months after completion of the full vaccination regimen to help provide adequate information to assess a vaccine’s risk-benefit.
“In addition to outlining our expectations for vaccine sponsors, we also hope the agency's guidance on COVID-19 vaccines helps the public understand our science-based decision-making process that assures vaccine quality, safety and efficacy for any vaccine that is authorized or approved,” Peter Marks, M.D., Ph.D., director of the FDA's Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, said.
While it is possible some will begin getting vaccinated in the coming weeks or months, questions remain on how soon a majority of the country will have the opportunity to become vaccinated. The first Americans slated to become vaccinated will be health care workers and people with a high risk of coronavirus complications, such as the elderly and those living in assisted living facilities, according to an NPR report.
Given that Pfizer’s vaccine candidate is showing a high level of effectiveness, Fauci called the development “extraordinary.”
"We know there's light at the end of the tunnel, but that doesn't mean that we're going to give up the important public health measures that we continually still have to do every single day,” Fauci said.
While there is urgency for both public health and economic reasons for a vaccine, some experts have expressed concern over the speed of a vaccine and whether the expedited timeline is long enough to demonstrate efficacy.
Even though a vaccine could be ready by year’s end, trials will be expected to continue for over a year to monitor for possible side effects.
According to the FDA, a typical Phase 3 trial would take one to three years.
“NIH is committed to supporting several Phase 3 vaccine trials to increase the odds that one or more will be effective in preventing COVID-19 and put us on the road to recovery from this devastating pandemic,” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. “We also know that preventing this disease could require multiple vaccines and we’re investing in those that we believe have the greatest potential for success.”
Pfizer said based on current projections, it expects to produce globally up to 50 million vaccine doses in 2020 and up to 1.3 billion doses in 2021.