The confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide continue to increase to millions. But the world may soon get an effective tool to prevent the novel coronavirus from infecting people and possibly help stop the pandemic.
Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said biotech company Moderna is set to move to the last stage of testing its experimental coronavirus vaccine. If successful, he expects the government to approve its production by July, Salon reported Wednesday.
Moderna will put the vaccine into the phase 3 trials. It will be the final step before the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) provides authorization of mass production and to offer it to the general public.
Fauci said the trials will recruit 30,000 patients, including individuals as young as 18 and some elderly.
“We are preparing the sites for the phase 3 study,” he told Howard Bauchner, editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). “The real business end of this all is the phase three trial that starts in the first week in July.”
However, the official noted the progress in developing the COVID-19 vaccine comes with risks. Fauci explained that even if the government approves its production and distribution, there is a possibility that the vaccine may not work.
“We and the companies and the federal government are doing this at risk,” he said. “We are going to start manufacturing doses way before we know whether the vaccine works — that’s going to be done as we are testing the vaccine.”
Reports about the effectiveness of the Moderna vaccine may come out by November or December. But Fauci said while the public awaits results, the government may start producing 100 million doses and in early 2021, there would be a “couple hundred million” available to the public.
Despite speeding up the process to deliver a coronavirus vaccine to people, the U.S. is expected to face challenges in providing it to citizens. Many Americans have already expressed plans to refuse getting vaccinated.
A recent survey by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research showed that only 49 percent of respondents agreed to get vaccinated, while 31 percent were not sure and 20 percent said they absolutely would not get it.
Dr. Russell Medford, chairman of the Center for Global Health Innovation and Global Health Crisis Coordination Center, said having some Americans rejecting the vaccine would be a problem in the fight against COVID-19. Estimates show that the country needs to vaccinate at least 70 percent or more of its population to develop herd immunity and eliminate the virus.