Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and an expert in infectious diseases for the last four decades, said this weekend: “The way the pace of the enrollment is going on and the level of the infections that are going on in the United States, it is likely that we’ll get an answer by the end of the year.”
He added: “It is conceivable that we would get an answer before that.” In the meantime, cases keep rising in the U.S. with California becoming the first state in the country to surpass 700,000 confirmed cases; cases there hit 702,038 as of Sunday with 12,894 COVID-related deaths. New York has recorded 433,402 infections and 32,938 deaths from coronavirus.
“I would say a safe bet is at least knowing that you have a safe and effective vaccine by November, December,” he told the Times newspaper in the U.K. He declined to comment on what vaccine could be a front-runner, but added, “I would not be satisfied until a vaccine was proven to be safe and effective, before it was actually approved for general use.”
But Fauci cautioned against rushing a vaccine for political purposes without first knowing it was safe. At the mostly online Republican National Convention, President Donald Trump said, “We are delivering lifesaving therapies, and will produce a vaccine before the end of the year, or maybe even sooner. We will defeat the virus, end the pandemic, and emerge stronger than ever before.”
The president’s convention address appeared to somewhat accelerate the timeline laid out by “Operation Warp Speed,” his administration’s effort to financially support the rapid development, manufacturing and distribution of a COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics. Under that program, the administration says it aims to have initial vaccine doses available by January 2021.
As of Sunday, COVID-19 has now infected more than 25 million people worldwide, which mostly does not account for asymptomatic cases, and killed at least 843,842. The U.S. still has the world’s highest number of COVID-19 cases (5,982,692), followed by Brazil (3,846,153), India (3,542,733) and Russia (987,470), according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University.
in combination with Oxford University; BioNTech SE
and partner Pfizer
Johnson & Johnson
; Merck & Co.
; and Sanofi
are among those currently working toward COVID-19 vaccines.
In a separate interview with the “Colors” podcast on Friday, Fauci said it was imperative to enroll a diverse number of people in a vaccine to ensure that it is safe and effective for everyone, and said that coronavirus has shed “very bright light” on the disparities in the U.S. health-care system. Even post-vaccine, he said something needed to be done about those disparities.
“There are two elements that need to be clarified,” Fauci told the podcast’s hosts J.J. Green and Chris Core. “One: The likelihood that African Americans will get infected versus whites or others and, when and if they do get infected, the likelihood of their getting a serious outcome more so than whites. The answer is unfortunately, ‘Yes,’ to both.”
He said, “You want to show that it is safe and effective in all elements of society. If we don’t get African Americans and Latinx and Asian Americans and Native Americans, if we don’t get them properly represented in the proportion of those that are in the trial, we will not know for sure — although you can assume it, but you want to prove it — that it is safe and effective in that group.”
But experts caution that a vaccine is unlikely to provide 100% immunity to the population. Aside from social distancing and masks, Fauci previously said that aiming for 100% herd immunity — as Sweden attempted — instead of closing schools and businesses to flatten the curve of new cases of COVID-19, would have dire consequences for the American people.
Anders Tegnell, the Swedish epidemiologist who masterminded the plan, admitted the country made a mistake. “If we were to encounter the same illness with the same knowledge that we have today, I think our response would land somewhere in between what Sweden did and what the rest of the world has done,” he said in June when the country hit the highest death rate in Europe.
Countries like South Korea, New Zealand and China — where the virus is believed to have originated in a food market in Wuhan late last year — appear to have had more success in beating back COVID-19. Earlier this week, for example, New Zealand moved fast to lock down Auckland after the return of COVID after 102 days of reporting no new infections.
The Dow Jones Industrial Index
and Nasdaq Composite
ended higher Friday, framed largely by a speech from Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell that likely ushered in an era of looser monetary policy after the central bank dropped its longstanding practice of preemptively lifting rates to head off higher inflation.