President Donald Trump's prediction of a COVID-19 vaccine by year's end was met with skepticism by public health experts.
During a Fox News televised town hall Sunday night, the president said, "We are very confident that we're going to have a vaccine at the end of the year."
An administration project known as "Operation Warp Speed" aims to have 300 million doses available by January. The project is accelerating the normal testing process of 12-18 months by working on multiple candidates at once and not waiting for complete evidence of safety before testing for efficacy.
Even so, many experts say the drugs are in early stages of development, and an expectation of a January date is too early. And even if a vaccine is developed by the end of the year, they say, hundreds of millions of doses would be needed to keep the disease from spreading.
"You're absolutely compressing the manufacturing time, but the kind of scale that you would need to make a meaningful dent, even if you had multiple companies manufacturing the drug . . . it's a highly aggressive view of this place that we're at today," Jeff Myers, senior vice president at Catalyst Healthcare Consulting, told The Hill.
Dr. Ashish Jha, global health professor and director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, agreed, telling Fox News' "Bill Hemmer Reports," "I don't mean to be the downer on this, I'm the enthusiast. I just don't want to overpromise and underdeliver. It would be much better if we hope for January, but planned for June or September of 2021. And if we get surprised, it'd be awesome."
"The issue is going to be: How quickly can you amass data in thousands of patients in a short period of time to know there's an efficacy signal, and know there's no safety flare that rises up?" Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, told The Hill.
"If we get it wrong, it's going to have consequences that go beyond COVID," Hotez added. "The one place I would draw a line in the sand is rushing a phase 3 to . . . prevent you from getting adequate information about whether it works and whether it's safe."
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