August 07, 2020 08:21
The top infectious disease expert in the United States says the world will never be able to eradicate the novel coronavirus that has infected 18.8 million people globally, but is hopeful that hundreds of millions of doses of vaccine could be available by the end of this year and into early 2021.
"There will be, I think, enough vaccine if everything turns out to be successful," Dr. Anthony Fauci told VOA, "to get vaccine not only to the countries that are the classical rich countries but those who are low and middle income that would not be able to readily have access to a vaccine. That's what we're hoping to do."
Fauci's interview with Greta Van Susteren was conducted Monday and released Thursday. In a separate interview with Reuters, Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Wednesday the reason the virus will never go away is because of its "highly transmissible" nature. But Fauci said that with "the combination of a good vaccine and attention to public health measures... then I think we can get behind this."
Fauci predicted the world will be able to get the virus under control after next year, and said he was "cautiously optimistic" an effective vaccine will be approved by then. "We are likely going to have maybe tens of millions of doses in the early part of (next) year," Fauci said. "But as we get into 2021, the manufacturers tell us that they will have hundreds of millions and likely a billion doses by the end of 2021. So I think the process is moving along at a pretty favorable pace."
◆ Johnson and Johnson
Fauci's outlook about a new COVID-19 vaccine coincided with an announcement by U.S.-based pharmaceutical giant Johnson and Johnson that it reached a deal with the U.S. government to provide 100 million doses of its coronavirus vaccine in a deal totaling more than $1 billion. The company is expected to begin late-stage human trials of its experimental vaccine in September, joining three other U.S.-based biotech firms that are also in phase 3 testing -- Novavax, a joint initiative between Pfizer and Germany's BioNTech, and a joint effort between Moderna and NIAI.
◆ Vaccine Safety
In a related development, The New York Times is reporting that nearly 400 leading public health experts are urging the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to conduct full safety and efficiency reviews of potential COVID-19 vaccines before making them available to the public. The group of experts in infectious diseases, vaccines and other specialties are calling on FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn to be open about the agency's deliberations over whether to approve any new vaccine in order to gain the public's trust.
The signees acknowledged that efforts "between scientists, the pharmaceutical industry and the federal government may bring us to a remarkable and historic achievement." But they warned that "an effective vaccine will only be truly useful if a large proportion of the public is willing to take it."
◆ COVID Testing
Daily testing for the coronavirus in the United States is falling, even while the death toll rises. The number of tests has dropped nearly 4 percent over the past two weeks, the Associated Press reported. Experts said demand has overburdened laboratories that carry out the highly accurate molecular tests that detect the genetic code of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. These tests can give results in as little as two days.
The experts are calling for a different test that people can do themselves and get results in just minutes, but the scientists say those tests are not as reliable. They include a do-it-yourself test where a patient would spit on a special piece of paper that changes color if the results are positive. But federal regulators say such tests could be highly unreliable.
◆ Tracing App
Meanwhile, the eastern state of Virginia became the first in the United States to release a new mobile app that will notify users of their possible exposure to the coronavirus. The new "Covidwise" app, unveiled Wednesday by Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, utilizes new pandemic technology developed by tech giants Apple and Google. The app relies on Bluetooth signals to detect app users whose smartphones come into proximity with one another.
Northam emphasized that the new Covidwise app does not track users' movements nor store their personal information. Instead, people who receive a warning of possible exposure can seek advice from the health department or their doctor. And if users later test positive, they can use the app to notify other users without sharing that information with government agencies.
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