Conference Coverage

Fauci: Cautious optimism for COVID-19 vaccine by end of 2020



A COVID-19 vaccine could be proven effective within the last months of 2020, with distribution of first doses possible before the end of the year, according to Anthony S. Fauci, MD, director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Bethesda, Md.

Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, NIH, Bethesda, MD

Dr. Anthony Fauci

“Given the rate of infection that’s going on in this country, and the distribution of the clinical trial sites involving tens of thousands of volunteers, we project that we will have an answer as to whether or not we have a safe and effective vaccine by November or December,” Dr. Fauci said today in his virtual keynote address during the annual meeting of the American College of Chest Physicians.

“It may come earlier -- this month, in October,” he added in his remarks. “That is unlikely – it is more likely that we’ll have an answer in November and December.”

If that timing does come to pass, Dr. Fauci said, it’s possible that distribution of doses could start at the end of the year, continuing throughout the beginning and middle of 2021.

Although there are no guarantees, Dr. Fauci said he is “cautiously optimistic” regarding the timeline.

He said that his optimism is based in part on animal studies and phase 1 data that demonstrate robust neutralizing antibody responses to a vaccine that are equivalent to, if not greater than, natural infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19.

Rapid development gives reason for hope

Ryan C. Maves, MD, FCCP, a critical care and infectious disease specialist at Naval Medical Center San Diego, said there is reason to be hopeful that a vaccine will be available by the end of the calendar year. He cautioned, however, that this timing is based on the assumption that one of the vaccines will be proven safe and effective very soon.

Dr. Ryan C. Maves, critical care and infectious disease specialist,  San Diego, California

Dr. Ryan C. Maves

“We’re lucky to have multiple phase 3 trials using multiple vaccine technologies in different platforms,” Dr. Maves said in a panel discussion following Dr. Fauci’s remarks. “I think the odds are very high that one of them will be effective.”

“I’m hoping that multiple vaccines will be effective,” Dr. Maves added. “Then we’ll be in a good position of determining which is the best of several good options, as a society and as a world.”

COVID-19 vaccine development over the past year has been remarkably fast, especially given the previous record set by the mumps vaccine, which took about four years to go from initial steps to rollout, Dr. Maves noted.

Dr. Fauci said the federal government has taken a “strategic approach” to the COVID-19 vaccine that includes direct involvement in the research and development of six different vaccine candidates, five of which are now in phase 3 trials.

As part of that strategic approach, the study protocols are harmonized to have a common data and safety monitoring board, common primary and secondary endpoints, and an independent statistical group to determine correlates of protection, Dr. Fauci said.


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