Top US infectious diseases expert Dr Anthony Fauci said if all goes well, the first doses of a safe and effective Covid-19 vaccine will likely become available to some high-risk Americans in late December or early January.
During a live chat on Twitter and Facebook, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases confirmed on the basis of current projections from coronavirus vaccine front-runners Moderna and Pfizer. "Americans will likely know 'sometime' in December whether or not we have a safe and effective vaccine," Dr Fauci said.
"The first interim look (at trial results) should be, we hope, within the next few weeks," he added.
Both companies started the final stage of clinical testing in late July with tens of thousands of people taking part in each trial.
Earlier on Thursday, Moderna said it was preparing to launch its experimental coronavirus vaccine. “We are actively preparing for the launch of mRNA-1273 and we have signed a number of supply agreements with governments around the world," Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel said in a press release. The company has received $1.1 billion in customer deposits for the shots during the third quarter, the company mentioned in the filing.
A few days back, Moderna finished enrolling participants for a 30,000-volunteer study that is testing whether the vaccine can help prevent the deadly virus. Early data from the trial is expected in the coming weeks.
Senior officials in the UK government believe that a German coronavirus vaccine backed by Pfizer could be ready to distribute by Christmas before the results are in on AstraZeneca’s competing vaccine, with the first doses earmarked for the elderly and vulnerable, according to a report.
“Senior government sources expect that a verdict on whether it works will be available before Oxford’s competing vaccine, which may not provide results until after Christmas," the report said.
However, the data will then need to be reviewed by the US Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which will make recommendations on who gets the first doses if the trials prove successful.
Practically speaking, Fauci, sidelined White House Covid-19 taskforce member, said the first Covid-19 vaccine doses would likely be deployed to individuals deemed most in need "by the end of December or the beginning of January."
Fauci's comments were part of a conversation with Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, who took questions from listeners.
Even with an effective vaccine to protect against the virus, Fauci said it will take time to get back to something approaching normal as vaccine-induced immunity builds both nationally and globally. He said life will likely not get back to normal "until the end of 2021 at least."