By the end of the year, the United States is expected to have 100 million doses of a Covid-19 vaccine candidate, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and member of the White House coronavirus task force, said Tuesday.
“So in early 2021, we hope to have a couple of hundred million doses,” said Fauci during a live question and answer session with the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Fauci said that the first vaccine candidate, created by the modern biotechnology company in collaboration with NIAID, should enter a final phase of studies on volunteers, known in the sector as Phase III, by mid-summer. Preparations on national and international sites are already underway, he said.
“The real commercial end of all this will be Phase III which starts in the first week of July, hopefully,” said Fauci. “We want to get as many data points as possible.”
Phase III will involve around 30,000 people. The vaccine will be tested on subjects aged between 18 and 55, as well as in the elderly and in subjects with underlying diseases.
“It will be the whole spectrum,” said Fauci.
Fauci said Phase II of the trial started a few days ago. A few hundred volunteers will be involved in that part of the process.
The plan is to produce vaccine doses even before it is clear whether the vaccines are working, making nearly 100 million doses by November or December, Fauci said. So if it works, it can be deployed quickly.
Scientists are expected to have enough data by November or December to determine if the vaccine works, Fauci said.
The ongoing AstraZeneca process in the UK will follow a similar program. A handful of other vaccine studies should only start one or two months later, he said.
“I am cautiously optimistic that with the multiple candidates we have on different platforms, we will have a vaccine that will make it deployable,” said Fauci. He is optimistic, he said, because while the death toll for Covid-19 is “profound”, most people recover from this disease. Recovery shows that there is an immune response that can eliminate the virus.
“Which tells us that if the body is able to provide an immune response to rid the virus of natural infection, this is a good proof of concept,” said Fauci. “With that said, there is never a guarantee.”
Fauci said he was a little more worried about the length of the response. People develop antibodies to fight common colds caused by other coronavirus strains, but protection generally lasts only about a year. This could mean that people would need a new vaccine every year, such as in the case of the flu.