Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases and senior infectious diseases expert in the US
said that he is “cautiously optimistic” that a vaccine for SARS CoV-2 would be a reality by the end of this year, or early 2021. Fauci also expressed doubts about the claims of vaccines, being developed in Russia and China, that they may get approved within the next two weeks, while he was testified before a House Subcommittee on the Coronavirus crisis hearing.
Fauci’s remarks were in reference to recent claims by Russia that a vaccine being developed by Moscow’s Gamaleya institute would be approved by August 10 and would be available in market for public use by September.
“I do hope that the Chinese and the Russians are actually testing the vaccines before they are administering the vaccine to anyone. Because claims of having a vaccine ready to distribute before you do testing is problematic at the very least,” Fauci said.According to reports the Russian vaccine is still in phase-II trials which began in the second week of July. Russia plans to approve the vaccine even before the phase-III trials, which it plans to carry out after it is made available for use. While in China, one vaccine has already been approved for limited use after the phase-II trials. This is being administered only to military personnel for the time being. At least seven Chinese candidates are currently being tested on human beings.
In phase-III, a candidate vaccine is tested on thousands of volunteers for an extended period of time in real-life situations to assess whether it is actually able to prevent an infection. Phase-I and phase-II trials are to check whether the candidate is safe for humans, and whether it induces immune response.Fauci said he did not believe that some other countries would be able to develop a vaccine so far ahead of the ones being developed in the US that the United States would have to get the vaccines from other countries. It is in this context he said that at least one of the vaccines being developed in the United States would become a reality by the end of this year or early next year.“There’s never a guarantee that you are going to get a safe and effective vaccine, but from everything we have seen now, in the animal data, as well as early human data, we feel cautiously optimistic that we will have a vaccine by the end of this year and as we go into 2021,” he said.
Fauci was talking about the the vaccine being developed by US-biotech major Moderna. “I know to some people this seems like this is so fast that there might be compromising of safety and scientific integrity. And I can tell you that is absolutely not the case. The rapidity with which we are doing it is a result of very different technologies in getting from the time we recognised this pathogen in the beginning of January to the time we were able to get into phase-I trials, till the time we were able to do phase-II, till the time, as I just mentioned, just this past Monday (July 27) when we started phase-III. That was not reckless rushing. That was technology and doing things in a way that does not compromise any of the steps,” he said.Other than the vaccine being developed by US-biotech major Moderna, the US has funded three other vaccine projects to ensure that the country will immediately get those vaccine as and when they are approved. These include the one which is being developed by French-drugs and vaccines maker Sanofi along with GlaxoSmithkline, another one by Oxford University and AstraZeneca, and the third one by Pfizer and German technology company BioNTech. Of these, the Sanofi-GSK vaccine candidate is in pre-clinical stage, while the other two are in Phase-3 human trials.