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Dr. Anthony Fauci said he is “cautiously optimistic” that one of the coronavirus vaccine candidates currently in development will prove to be effective against COVID-19, but that “there is no guarantee.” Fauci, the face of the White House Coronavirus Task Force and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), made his remarks while testifying before the Senate Health Committee on Tuesday.
“Given the way the body responds to viruses of this type, I’m cautiously optimistic that we will get a candidate that’s effective,” Fauci said.
He noted in his testimony that eight vaccine candidates were currently in development, including one that is in the second dose of Phase 1 testing and that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is collaborating with the pharmaceutical companies. Dr. Stephen Hahn, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), also testified on Tuesday and said that vulnerable populations, including children, would be included in Phase 2 and Phase 3 testing.
Fauci warned about the possibility that some vaccine candidates could, in fact, enhance the negative effects of the virus, but that they were “taking multiple shots on goal.”
Fauci said that they will begin developing vaccines at-risk, meaning before researchers know whether it is safe or effective and that they hope to know whether a candidate is successful by late fall or early winter, signaling one would not be ready in time for schools to reopen. He said the idea of having a treatment or vaccine available to facilitate the re-entry of students for fall term “would be something of a bridge too far.”
Fauci said that, rather than a vaccine or treatment, it would be testing that plays a large role in making students and staff feel comfortable about returning to classrooms.
“If this were a situation where we had a vaccine that would really be the end of that issue in a positive way,” he said. “But as I mentioned in my opening remarks, even at the top speed we’re going, we don’t see a vaccine, playing the ability of individuals to get back to school, this term.”
Admiral Brett Giroir, assistant secretary for health, also testified Tuesday, and said that he believes the U.S. would be able to conduct up to 50 million tests a month by the end of the summer.
Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., the committee’s chairman, echoed Fauci in his opening remarks and said that testing would pave the road for people returning safely to work and school.