The US should have 100 million doses of one candidate coronavirus vaccine by the end of the year, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and a member of the White House coronavirus task force, said Tuesday.
“Then, by the beginning of 2021, we hope to have a couple hundred million doses,” Fauci said during a live question and answer session with the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Fauci said the first vaccine candidate, made by biotech company Moderna in partnership with NIAID, should go into a final stage of trials in volunteers, known in the industry as Phase III, by mid-summer. Preparations at national and international sites are already under way, he said.
“The real business end of this all will be the Phase III that starts in the first week of July, hopefully, “ Fauci said. “We want to get as many datapoints as we can.”
Phase III will involve about 30,000 people. The vaccine will be tested in people between the ages of 18 and 55, as well as in the elderly and in people who have underlying health conditions.
“It’s going to be the entire spectrum,” Fauci said.
Fauci said Phase II of the trial started a few days ago. A few hundred volunteers will be involved in that part of the trial.
The plan is to manufacture doses of the vaccine even before it is clear whether the vaccines work, making close to 100 million doses by November or December, Fauci said. That’s so if it does work, it can be deployed quickly.
Scientists should have enough data by November or December to determine if the vaccine works, Fauci said.
The AstraZeneca trial underway in the UK will follow a similar schedule. A handful of other vaccine studies should start just one to two months after that, he said.
“I’m cautiously optimistic that with the multiple candidates we have with different platforms, that we are going to have a vaccine that will make it deployable,” Fauci said. He is optimistic, he said, because, while the number of deaths from Covid-19 are “profound,” largely people recover from this disease. Recovery shows that there is an immune response that can clear the virus.
“Which tells us, that if the body is capable of making an immune response to clear the virus of natural infection, that’s a pretty good proof of concept,” Fauci said. “Having said that, there is never a guarantee.”
He said he is a little more concerned about what the durability of the response will be. People develop antibodies to fight common colds caused by other strains of coronavirus, but that protection generally only lasts about a year. That might mean people would need a fresh vaccine every year, as is the case with influenza.