Anthony Fauci says Covid-19 vaccines likely to offer only 'finite' protection and Americans may need boosters
Americans will have an answer on whether we have a safe and effective Covid-19 ready by the end of the year or early 2021, according to Dr Anthony Fauci, a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force. He, however, cautioned that the vaccine's protection might not last and that people may have to rely on boosters to extend it. The US is still knee-deep in the first wave, and a vaccine is likely to provide enough protection to at least take us through that, Fauci said during a live chat with Dr Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). "We’re going to assume that there’s a degree of protection. But we have to assume that it’s going to be finite. It’s not going to be like a measles vaccine," he added. The measles or the MMR vaccine shields people for life. Tetanus shots, on the other hand, need boosters every 10 years for adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
As for Covid-19, scientists will have to do a follow-up to see if people might need a booster dose. "We may need a boost to continue the protection. But right now, we do not know how long it lasts," he explained. Before reaching that stage, scientists will thoroughly evaluate potential vaccines. And Fauci said there is never a guarantee that a candidate will be both safe and effective. For now, the US is either directly or indirectly helping multiple candidates. If things go according to plan, one of these candidates will enter phase 3 trials for efficacy at the end of July. Other candidates will sequentially come in August, another in September, and October. "We hope by the end of this year or the beginning of 2021, we will at least have an answer whether a vaccine or vaccines are safe and effective," he said.
To ensure that Americans get access to a safe and effective vaccine, the US is now helping manufacturers make doses before any information on the safety and efficacy is available. And if the candidates fail to clear safety and efficacy tests, the country will throw out all the stock. "But that is a financial risk. It is not a risk for safety, nor is it risk for scientific integrity," Fauci explained. And if we lose anything, that would be money, he said. Adding to Fauci's remarks, Dr Collins said that scientists are not cutting corners. "Absolutely, not the case. There will be no compromising on the principles of safety and efficacy," he explained.
The phase 3 trials will include 30,000 people, half of whom will receive the vaccine, and the remaining a placebo. It will be tested in multiple sites across the US, especially where the outbreak is brewing, to evaluate a candidate's efficacy within a reasonable period. These statements come as the situation in the US is worsening. Earlier, the country was averaging about 20,000 new infections a day. A series of events associated with premature reopening has led to record-breaking cases, Fauci noted. "Two days ago, it was at 57,500. So within a week and a half, we have almost doubled the cases," he explained.