Conference Coverage

Dr. Fauci: Extraordinary challenges, scientific triumphs with COVID-19


 

Therapeutics

Therapeutics that are either approved by the Food and Drug Administration, have emergency use authorization, or are in clinical trials for early or moderate disease include remdesivir (Veklury, Gilead Sciences), monoclonal antibodies, convalescent plasma, antiviral agents, hyperimmune globulin, anticoagulants, and immunomodulators.

Options for moderate to severe to advanced disease include dexamethasone, baricitinib (Olumiant, Eli Lilly and Company) plus remdesivir, and immunomodulators such as infliximab (Remicade, Janssen Biotech), and biosimilars.

Vaccines

Finally, Dr. Fauci reviewed the current state of vaccines, including the three with emergency use authorization from the FDA as of this writing: two nucleic acid, messenger RNA-based (mRNA) vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech, and an adenoviral vector-based vaccine from Johnson & Johnson.

Other vaccines in development or in use elsewhere in the world include recombinant protein and adjuvant approaches by GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi (in a phase 2 clinical trial launched in February 2021) and by Novavax.

The three vaccines in use in the United States were highly efficacious in both clinical trials, with efficacy of about 95% for the mRNA vaccines and 67% for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

The real-world performance of these vaccines has been even more impressive, however.

For example, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine had 72% efficacy at preventing moderate to severe COVID 19 in the United States, 68% in Brazil, and 64% in South Africa, and 85% efficacy against severe disease across all regions studied, Dr. Fauci said.

He cited a study of 22,234 employees of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas who were vaccinated under a program started on Dec. 15, 2020. The COVID-19 infection rate among these vaccinated employees was 0.05%.

Dr. Fauci recounted the experience in Israel, where the highly transmissible B.1.1.7 strain of SARS-CoV-2 is predominant. A chart of the progress shows clearly that as the vaccine doses delivered steadily increased, the number of COVID-19 cases began a precipitous decline.

Horse race

Fittingly for a speech presented on the day that the Preakness Stakes – the second leg in thoroughbred racing’s Triple Crown – was run, Dr. Fauci closed with a cartoon showing two racehorses, labeled “SARS-CoV-2” and “Vaccines,” nearly neck-and-neck, but with vaccines having a slight lead.

“We are in a race against the virus. The vaccines, and the virus: If we vaccinate the overwhelming proportion of our population, we will without a doubt be able to crush the outbreak in the same way as we have done with other viral-borne diseases like measles, smallpox, and polio.

“So, the message is: Get vaccinated,” he concluded.

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