Scientists who are part of the Trump administration’s coronavirus vaccine project have identified 14 vaccines to focus on for development, according to a senior administration official.
Those involved in the effort expect to have six to eight of the vaccines being tested make it to subsequent rounds of trials, the official said. Officials hope to have three to four vaccines make it through final testing and be made available, but that depends on how the testing and clinical trials proceed and how successful they are.
“Operation Warp Speed” seeks to quickly ramp up production, organize distribution and determine who gets the first doses of a potential vaccine. The goal – which may prove impossible to meet – is to make 100 million doses of the vaccine available by November, 200 million doses by December and 300 million doses by January, a senior administration official has told CNN.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, has suggested January as a potential date for a vaccine, but vaccines typically take years to produce.
NBC News first reported that the administration is eyeing 14 potential vaccines.
“We are very confident we are going to have a vaccine by the end of the year,” President Donald Trump said Sunday night at a Fox News town hall.
Last week, Fauci said “if everything falls into place right” there could be a coronavirus vaccine by January – but added there are “a number of situations that could go wrong.” He also mentioned the potential risks of experimental coronavirus vaccines and urged more testing.
“It may all of a sudden have a safety signal,” Fauci said during a CNN Global Town Hall – Coronavirus: Facts and Fears. “If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t protect people. I’ve been involved in vaccine work for decades. Not every vaccine we went after worked.”
He continued, “That’s an assumption that it’s going to be safe, that it’s going to be effective and we’re going to be able to do it quickly. I think each of those are not only feasible, but maybe likely. That’s what I mean when I say by January we’ll do it. But I can’t guarantee it.”
The scientific community has faced immense pressure to find a vaccine – a process that is typically measured in years, not months, and Operation Warp Speed has essentially received a blank check from the administration. CNN has reported that a director of the project is expected to be announced this week.
Vaccine trials usually start with testing in animals before launching into a three-phase process. The first phase involves injecting the vaccine into a small group of people to assess safety and monitor their immune response.
The second phase ramps up the number of people – often into the hundreds, and often including more members of at-risk groups – for a randomized trial.
If the results are promising, the trial moves to phase-three test for efficacy and safety with thousands or tens of thousands of people, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
That undertaking can make for a daunting timeline, but vaccines are seen as the holy grail. If the US population can be successfully vaccinated for the coronavirus, that would make it easier for the country to fully reopen.
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States has topped more than 1 million and more than 67,000 people have died as of mid-Monday morning.
CNN’s Greg Clary, Sara Murray and Paul LeBlanc contributed to this report.