Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's leading infectious disease expert, said Tuesday that current efforts toward Covid-19 vaccine development are “on a really good track” despite news that a second vaccine was put on hold this week.
“A couple of the vaccines are very close to getting some sort of information,” Fauci said during a call with the nation’s governors Tuesday afternoon, according to audio of the call obtained by CNN.
Fauci, who is director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, mentioned vaccines being tested by Moderna and Pfizer. “We’re getting to the point where we’re almost being able to look at the first look at the data, which is a predetermined thing done by the data and safety monitoring board,” he said.
The vaccine effort, more broadly, “is on really a good track,” he said. “We should know by November or December whether or not we have a safe and effective vaccine,” he added. “It is conceivable that we might even know before then.”
The NIAID is helping sponsor some of the coronavirus vaccine trials.
“By November or December, at least in one or more of these trials, we’ll have an answer early on so we can start distributing to those groups who have the highest need,” Fauci said.
Fauci told the governors not to be concerned by the two vaccines in clinical trials that have been placed on hold in recent weeks pending further investigation. AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine trial is on hold in the US and Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine was paused Monday because of an illnesses in a volunteer.
“I want to emphasize to the governors that this is not an unusual occurrence. Whenever you have clinical trials in which you’re involving tens of thousands of individuals, it is not unusual to get an adverse event and you want, out of overabundance of caution, you want to make sure that that is a not related to the actual vaccine itself,” Fauci said, calling a hold “standard procedure to do that.”
“Many very good vaccines in the course of their testing have actually been put temporarily on hold,” he assured the governors.
Some more context: Fauci’s comments and participation on the task force governors call come hours after President Trump revived efforts to publicly undermine him, tweeting that Fauci's pitching arm — a reference to his poor first pitch at Nationals Park — is "far more accurate than his prognostications."
Fauci's recommendations and assessments have largely been in line with public health experts throughout the coronavirus pandemic but not aligned with what the President perceives his political interests to be.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar also reminded the governors of an upcoming deadline for states to provide the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with a vaccine distribution plan.
“We want you to be in close touch with your CDC liaison throughout this process as you approach the deadline for submitting a vaccine distribution plan to CDC, this Friday, October 16,” Azar said.