Coronavirus Developments: Dr. Fauci Shows Optimism Over Vaccine, US Enters Into Vaccine Deal, Coronavirus Cases Grow

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Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told the House Select Subcommittee on Friday he is confident a safe and effective coronavirus vaccine would be developed by the end of 2020 or early 2021. The comments came as vaccine makers Sanofi and GSK announced a $2.1 billion deal with the U.S. government for 100 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.

As news of the vaccine deal broke, Fauci appeared in the televised briefing alongside Dr. Robert R. Redfield, director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Brett P. Giroir of the Department of Health and Human Services. The questions asked of Fauci centered around topics such as face masks, group spread of the coronavirus among protesters, and the need for a safe and effective coronavirus vaccine. With a good portion of the time spent on vaccine discussions, Fauci quashed concerns over the safety and speed at which the U.S. was developing a vaccine.

He said he was optimistic about a vaccine being developed in the U.S., saying it was not a “dream” but rather a “reality” – something he expected to come by year’s end or early next year. “We hope that as the time we get into the late fall and early winter we will have, in fact, a vaccine that we can say would be safe and effective,” Fauci said. “One can never guarantee the safety or effectiveness unless you do the trial, but we are cautiously optimistic.”

As the U.S. races to develop a coronavirus vaccine, along with other countries around the world, Fauci was pressed on its safety because of the fast pace at which it was being developed. Most vaccines take a decade to develop, test and market. He maintained that development was being done safely, and efficacy could be proved in the timeframe.

He was pressed further on the vaccine’s development timeline in relation to the election. Fauci denied the two had any correlation. The doctor was also asked about the use of hydroxychloroquine as it related to a study being done at the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit – a drug that has been touted by Trump as a treatment for COVID-19.

“That study is a flawed study,” Fauci said.

Fauci also expressed doubt over the development of a vaccine by the Russians and Chinese, saying: “I do not believe that there will be vaccines so far ahead of us that we will have to depend on other countries to get us vaccines.” The House briefing was shadowed by a $2.1 billion deal between the U.S. government and drugmakers Sanofi and GSK to produce 100 million doses of a recombinant protein-based coronavirus vaccine with the option for 500 million more doses.

Half of the funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Defense will go toward the development of the vaccine while the remaining funds will be used to ramp up production to provide the vaccine for the mass market, the companies said. “The global need for a vaccine to help prevent COVID-19 is massive, and no single vaccine or company will be able to meet the global demand alone,” Thomas Triomphe, executive vice president and global head of Sanofi Pasteur, said in a statement.

“From the beginning of the pandemic, Sanofi has leveraged its deep scientific expertise and resources to help address this crisis, collaborating with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to unlock a rapid path toward developing a pandemic vaccine and manufacturing at large scale. With our partner GSK, we expect our Phase 1/2 study for the recombinant adjuvanted approach to start in September,” Pasteur added.

The companies said Phase 3 trials are expected to begin at the end of 2020 with anticipated regulatory approval slated for the first half of 2021. As many as 1 billion does of the vaccine will be produced per year globally. Sanofi and GSK partnered in April to develop a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of 2021. The deal with the U.S. government follows the $1.95 billion agreement with Pfizer and BioNTech to produce 100 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine once it gains approval from U.S. regulators.