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U.S. is poised to produce a COVID-19 vaccine, but don’t expect it soon


 

Manufacturers will begin producing COVID-19 vaccine doses in anticipation of approval so that if a product gets the okay for usage, distribution can begin quickly, according to Anthony S. Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

vaccine bottles Steve Mann/Thinkstock

“We will be producing vaccine at risk, which means we’ll be [investing] considerable resources in developing doses even before we know any given candidate or candidates work,” he testified during a May 12, 2020, hearing of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee.

During the hearing, Dr. Fauci did not elaborate on how the production at risk would be undertaken, what criteria would be in place for selecting which candidates would be in the pipeline, or how much would be spent on the advanced production of these vaccines.

And while Dr. Fauci, a member of the White House coronavirus task force, remained optimistic that one or more vaccine candidates would ultimately be viable, he cautioned that there remain many unknowns that could slow the development of a vaccine for COVID-19.

“I must warn that there’s also the possibility of negative consequences that certain vaccines can actually enhance the negative effect of the infection,” he said. “The big unknown is efficacy. Will it be present or absent and how durable will it be?”

It’s unlikely that either a vaccine or an effective treatment will be available in the next 3 months, Dr. Fauci told the committee.

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), the committee chairman, asked Dr. Fauci what he would say to college, primary, and secondary school administrators about how the availability of treatments and vaccines could influence the ability to reopen campuses to students. Dr. Fauci replied that the idea of having treatments or a vaccine available to facilitate the reentry of students in the fall term would be “a bit of a bridge too far.”

The emphasis in the coming months should be on testing, contact tracing, and isolation of those infected with the virus, Dr. Fauci said.

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