A coronavirus vaccine by December is “conceivable,” according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
In January, White House’s top infectious disease expert said that developing a vaccine could take 12 to 18 months.
But on Friday, Dr. Fauci told NPR that the “schedule is still intact” but warned that there could be challenges and any time frame is “never a promise.”
“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 “Morning Edition.”
“When you’re dealing with vaccines there could be so many things that get in the way like it might not be entirely effective,” he added. “And you wouldn’t want to deploy a vaccine that’s not effective and certainly not one that’s not safe.”
Fauci’s statements came four days after US biotech company Moderna announced some positive progress from its phase one human trial on its potential vaccine. The National Institutes of Health has collaborated with Moderna to speed up the development of a vaccine.
However, STAT News reported that according to researchers, the data was not yet complete. Fauci described the results as “partial data.”
According to him, scientists at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases are gathering information so that they can submit it to a peer-reviewed journal in a “couple of weeks.”
He also noted that the potential vaccine is on “an accelerated pace.” However, he stressed that researchers will not compromise safety or care.
Dr. Fauci revealed that researchers are simultaneously conducting multiple stages of research to accelerate the development process.
“The risk is not to the patient because the safety and the scientific integrity is intact,” he said. “The risk is to the investment and we feel that it’s important enough to make those investments in order to save months.”
The federal Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority gave Moderna about $483 million worth of funding to speed up the development of the COVID-19 vaccine candidate.
Moderna secured a 10-year partnership with Swiss drugmaker Lonza to ensure the speedy production of the experimental vaccine. Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel said in an interview with CNBC that the company aims to start manufacturing its potential vaccine “as early as July.”
However, Dr. Fauci previously stressed that there is no guarantee that the coronavirus vaccine is actually going to be effective.
“You can have everything you think that’s in place and you don’t induce the kind of immune response that turns out to be protective and durably protective,” Fauci said of a vaccine.
“So one of the big unknowns is, will it be effective? Given the way the body responds to viruses of this type, I’m cautiously optimistic that we will with one of the candidates get an efficacy signal.”
Moreover, Fauci said he’s “cautiously optimistic that we will have a candidate that will have some degree of efficacy, hopefully a percentage enough that will induce the kind of herd immunity that would give protection to the population at home.”