Dr. Fauci warns coronavirus vaccine ‘might take some time’

White House coronavirus task force member Dr. Anthony Fauci says a vaccine that ends the coronavirus pandemic “might take some time” — though at best it could come later this year.

The warning that it may take time was laid out in Fauci’s written congressional testimony Tuesday. It gave way to more upbeat oral remarks, with Fauci saying he was “cautiously optimistic” a vaccine will be ready by “the end of this calendar year and the beginning of 2021.”

The infectious disease expert said in his prepared testimony that a COVID-19 vaccine “will be essential” to ending the pandemic, but is not imminent. Instead, Fauci said, he urges the public to get a flu shot to “help conserve scarce medical resources” later this year.

“While it remains unclear how long the pandemic will last, COVID-19 activity will likely continue for some time,” he warned.

Fauci is the longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. In his prepared testimony for the House Energy and Commerce Committee, he describes progress on US-backed vaccine efforts.

Speaking to members of the panel Tuesday, Fauci said he’s “cautiously optimistic” that vaccine distribution can begin by “the end of this calendar year and the beginning of 2021.”

Fauci, the longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told lawmakers during in-person testimony that “there is never a guarantee” that a vaccine can be developed, but that “I feel cautiously optimistic that we will be successful.”

Fauci said it was important to resist rushing.

“I would be very disappointed if we jumped to a conclusion before we knew that a vaccine was truly safe and truly effective because I would not want perpetual ambiguity of not knowing whether or not it is truly safe and effective,” he said. “That is the reason why we are doing several randomized placebo trials.”

Still, Fauci said a vaccine might still be available to the public from “a year to 18 months” from when research began in January 2020, a projection he’s given for some time.

In Fauci’s written remarks, he said, “The rigorous clinical testing required to establish vaccine safety and efficacy means that it might take some time for a licensed SARS-CoV-2 vaccine to be available to the general public.”

Fauci also sharpened his description of progress on US-backed vaccine efforts.

The company Moderna is working with health officials “to launch a Phase 3 clinical trial as early as July 2020, pending positive results from this Phase 2 trial,” Fauci said in written testimony.

Orally, Fauci said of vaccine efforts, “one of them will enter phase three study in July.”

The government also is working “to disseminate rapidly a vaccine to the American people when one is available,” he said.

Since March, the virus has sickened more than 2.3 million Americans and killed about 120,000.

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