“Then, in early 2021, we hope to get several hundred million doses,” Fauci said during questions and live negotiations with the Journal of the American Medical Association.
However, it is still unclear whether the vaccine will be effective against the new coronavirus.
Fauci said the first candidate for the vaccine, made by biotech company Moderna in partnership with NIAID, should go through the final phase of testing volunteers, known as Phase 3, by mid-summer. Preparations at national and international venues are already under way, he said.
“The real end of all this business will be Phase 3 which, hopefully, starts in the first week of July,” Fauci said. “We want to get as many data points as possible.”
Phase 3 will involve about 30,000 people. The vaccine will be tested on people aged 18 to 55, and on the elderly and people who have basic health conditions.
“It’s going to be the whole spectrum,” Fauci said.
Fauci said Phase 2 trials began a few days ago. Several hundred volunteers will be involved in that part of the trial.
The plan is to produce doses of the vaccine even before it is clear whether it will succeed, making close to 100 million doses by November or December, Fauci said. If it succeeds, then it can be deployed quickly.
Scientists should have enough data by November or December to determine if the vaccine works, Fauci said.
Vaccine testing is underway at the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca in the UK. Several other vaccine studies should begin just one to two months after that, he said.
“I am cautiously optimistic that with the more candidates we have with different platforms, we will have a vaccine that will make it available,” Fauci said. He is optimistic, he said, because although the number of deaths from Covid-19 is “deep”, people are mostly recovering from this disease. Recovery shows that there is an immune response that can clear the virus.
“Which tells us, that if the body is capable of making an immune response to removing a virus of natural infection, that’s pretty good proof of concept,” Fauci said. “Having said that, there is never a guarantee.”
In fact, even with 10 vaccines already in clinical trials and more than 120 in development, many experts doubt the vaccine will be available early next year. Key stages of the trial may be delayed, and ultimately, the vaccines now being tested may not protect people from the virus. Millions of doses of vaccine produced prematurely can be thrown out.
Fauci noted that he, too, is concerned about the permanence of the immune response. People develop antibodies to fight colds caused by other strains of coronavirus, but that protection generally lasts only about a year. This could mean that people will need a fresh vaccine every year, as is the case with the flu.
Fauci said there is also a “big boost” going on in programs to develop monoclonal antibodies, convalescent plasma and hyperimmune globulin. These are all types of treatments that use antibodies, as do vaccines, but deliver them directly, provide temporary protection, and can potentially treat the symptoms of Covid-19.
Fauci said he would like to see treatments using monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma to protect the elderly and those at risk for the worst symptoms of Covid-19.
“It’s a very, very high priority,” Fauci said.