Fauci testifies on coronavirus response

By Meg Wagner and Melissa Macaya, CNN

Updated 2:42 p.m. ET, July 31, 2020
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2:06 p.m. ET, July 31, 2020

Possible coronavirus vaccines will be available to Americans in phases, Fauci says

From CNN's Aditi Sangal

In his congressional testimony, Dr. Anthony Fauci told lawmakers that a coronavirus vaccine may not be available to all Americans immediately, but in phases.

“I believe ultimately over a period of time in 2021, if we have — and I think we will have — a safe and effective vaccine, that Americans will be able to get it,” he said. “I don't think that we'll have everybody getting it immediately in the beginning. It probably will be phased in. And that's the reason why we have the committees to do the prioritization of who should get it first. But ultimately, within a reasonable period of time, the plans now allow for any American who needs a vaccine to get it within the year 2021.”

The nation’s top infectious disease expert reiterated that he is “cautiously optimistic” that a coronavirus vaccine will be ready by the end of the year to be distributed in 2021.

He also reassured lawmakers that all safety precautions will be taken by the FDA before the vaccine is made available to the public, encouraging all Americans to take the vaccine.

“I think the American public should be assured that in the process of determining the safety and efficacy, the proper steps have been taken to determine that, and when a vaccine becomes available it's important for their own health and for the health of the country to take that vaccine.”


11:00 a.m. ET, July 31, 2020

Fauci hopes China and Russia are testing Covid-19 vaccines before distributing them

From CNN's Health Gisela Crespo

Erin Scott/AFP/Getty Images
Erin Scott/AFP/Getty Images

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told lawmakers Friday that he hopes China and Russia are "actually testing the vaccine before they are administering the vaccine to anyone."

Speaking during a House subcommittee hearing, Fauci said "claims of having a vaccine ready to distribute before you do testing, I think, is problematic at best."

Fauci explained the US is moving in a "rapid" but "prudent" way.

"We are going very quickly. I do not believe that there will be vaccines so far ahead of us that we will have to depend on other countries to get us vaccines. I believe the program that is being sponsored by us right now, and being directed and implemented by us, is going at a very rapid speed — prudent, but rapid," Fauci said.

Some context: CNN learned earlier this week that Russia intends to be the first in the world to approve a coronavirus vaccine, in less than two weeks. And despite concerns about its safety, effectiveness and over whether the country has cut essential corners in development, interest in the vaccine has already been expressed by at least 20 countries and some US companies, Russian officials say.

Officials told CNN on Wednesday that they were working toward a date of August 10 or earlier for approval of the vaccine, which has been created by the Moscow-based Gamaleya Institute. It will be approved for public use, with frontline healthcare workers getting it first, they said.


10:58 a.m. ET, July 31, 2020

Fauci on possibility of Covid-19 vaccine being ready by late 2020 or early 2021: "I don't think it's dreaming"

From CNN's Health Gisela Crespo

Anthony Fauci, during the Coronavirus Crisis hearing on July 31, in Washington, DC.
Anthony Fauci, during the Coronavirus Crisis hearing on July 31, in Washington, DC. Erin Scott/Getty Images

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told lawmakers Friday that he doesn't think it’s a dream to say that a coronavirus vaccine could be ready by the end of the year or early 2021.

"I believe it will occur," Fauci told Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) during a House subcommittee hearing, and emphasized that safety standards and scientific integrity are not being compromised for speed.

"I know to some people this seems like it is so fast that there might be compromising of safety and scientific integrity, and I can tell you that is absolutely not the case. The rapidity with which we're doing it is as a result of very different technologies."

Fauci said early data from Phase 1 of the vaccine being developed by Moderna and NIAID was very favorable, but he added there are also other vaccines the government is involved with.

"As I've said often and I'll repeat it for the record now: There's never a guarantee that you're going to get a safe and effective vaccine, but from everything we've seen now, in the animal data, as well as the early human data, we feel cautiously optimistic that we will have a vaccine by the end of this year and as we go into 2021. So I don't think it's dreaming, Congresswoman. I believe is the reality, and we've shown to be a reality," Fauci said.


10:44 a.m. ET, July 31, 2020

Redfield: "It's in the public health best interest" of students to get back in schools 

Robert Redfield speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on July 31.
Robert Redfield speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on July 31. Erin Scott/AFP/Getty Images

As the start of the school year creeps closer and some states continue to see surges in cases, Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reiterated his stance that schools should reopen this fall.

"I think it's important to realize that it's in the public health best interest of K-through-12 students to get back in face-to-face learning. There's really very significant public health consequences of the school closure," Redfield said.

Redfield outlined some of these consequences, including student access to mental health services.

"Clearly we're seeing less reporting of it, and again, I think it's a direct consequence of the school closures. 7.1 million kids get their mental health services at school, they get nutritional support as we've mentioned from schools," he said.

"It's really important to realize it's not public health versus the economy about school opening, it's public health versus public health of the K-through-12 to get the schools open. We've got to do it safely and we have to be able to accommodate," Redfield added.

Dr. Anthony Fauci echoed Redfield's comments later on in the hearing, saying that a "default position despite the fact that we have to have flexibility" would be to try "as best as we possibly can in the context of the safety of the children and the teachers" to reopen the schools.

Fauci pointed to the psychological consequences on children and "downstream unintended consequences on families" as important reasons for aiming to open educational establishments.


10:19 a.m. ET, July 31, 2020

30,000 people have started to enroll for the phase 3 Covid-19 vaccine trial, Fauci says

From CNN's Health Gisela Crespo

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Friday that 30,000 individuals have started to enroll in the first Phase 3 clinical trial of a coronavirus vaccine in the United States which started Monday. 

The investigational vaccine was developed by the biotechnology company Moderna and NIAID. 

"As I mentioned, the Phase 3 trial has already started; 30,000 individuals were already starting to enroll," Fauci said during his opening statement for the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis.

Fauci also said that, as of last night, more than 250,000 people have registered interest in trials for a coronavirus vaccine. He asked individuals who have expressed interest to go to coronaviruspreventionnetwork.org "to make sure that we have a diverse representation."

"I just want to use my last couple of seconds to urge anyone who's listening who wants to participate to please go to that website and register so that you can be part of the solution of this terrible scourge," Fauci said.


10:15 a.m. ET, July 31, 2020

Why has Europe better contained the virus than the US? Here's what Fauci says.

Dr. Anthony Fauci was asked why Europe has been able to largely contain the virus while the US has seen a rise in new cases.

Fauci said it was a complex question, but described some of the contributing factors. He first pointed out that many European countries locked down more wholly than the US.

"If you look at what happened in Europe, when they shut down or locked down or went to shelter in place — however you want to describe it — they really did it to the tune of about 95% plus of the country did that," Fauci said.

However, "when you actually look at what we did, even though we shut down, even though it created a great deal of difficulty, we really functionally shut down only about 50% in the sense of the totality of the country," Fauci added.

He also noted that some states had better success at following reopening guidelines than others.

"Some were followed very carefully and some were not," he said.


10:15 a.m. ET, July 31, 2020

Fauci "cautiously optimistic" US could have safe and effective vaccine in late fall or early winter

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told lawmakers that while one can "never guarantee the safety or effectiveness" of a vaccine, he is "cautiously optimistic" that the coronavirus vaccine being developed by Moderna and his agency will be successful.

"We hope that by the time we get into late fall and early winter, we will have in fact a vaccine that we can say that would be safe and effective. One can never guarantee the safety or effectiveness unless you do the trial, but we are cautiously optimistic this will be successful," Fauci said.

"Because in the early studies with humans, the phase one study, it clearly showed that individuals who are vaccinated mounted a neutralizing antibody response that was at least comparable and in many respects better than what we see in convalescent serum from individuals who have recovered from Covid-19," Fauci added.

Some background: The phase three clinical trial of the vaccine discussed by Fauci began Monday.

The investigational vaccine was developed by the biotechnology company Moderna and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health. The trial will be conducted at nearly 100 US research sites, according to Moderna. The first patient was dosed at a site in Savannah, Georgia.

The trial is expected to enroll about 30,000 adult volunteers and evaluates the safety of the Moderna/NIH vaccine and whether it can prevent symptomatic Covid-19 after two doses, among other outcomes.

Volunteers will receive either two 100-microgram injections of the vaccine or a placebo about 28 days apart. Investigators and participants will not know who has received the vaccine.


10:06 a.m. ET, July 31, 2020

These are the 4 areas of focus in health officials' Covid-19 plan, according to Fauci

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, outlined four key points to the National Institutes of Health's strategic plan to addressing Covid-19.

The four areas the agency has focused on are:

  1. The improvement of fundamental knowledge of the virus
  2. The development of diagnostics
  3. The testing of therapeutics
  4. Development and testing of vaccines

Today's hearing is centered on the need to develop a national plan to contain coronavirus.


11:02 a.m. ET, July 31, 2020

Ranking Republican says Trump's "effective" Covid-19 plan has helped keep "Americans safe"

The House subcommittee's ranking member, Rep. Steve Scalise, dismissed assertions that the US lacks a national plan to combat coronavirus and called the hearing's title a "false political narrative."

In his opening remarks, Scalise held up a stack of documents he said were a few of the guidelines published by the Trump administration and his agencies to show states how to safely reopen. The Republican said that those claiming the US does not have a plan perhaps have not read the "different components" of the plan.

"You wouldn't even be here if there wasn't a plan, because you are the people tasked with carrying out the plan. In fact, if you were sidelined you wouldn't be here either. And I know some people want to suggest that but maybe they haven't spent time reading different components of the plan. These are just a few, by the way, a few of the documents that your agencies have published to show states how to safely reopen, to show schools how to safely reopen," Scalise said.

"To show nursing homes how to care for their patients, which by the way, if all governors would have followed those guidelines, thousands more seniors in nursing homes would be alive today if just five governors would have followed your plan that was developed by President Trump and is being carried out by you and your teams effectively every day," he said. "Let me thank you on behalf of the millions of American people who are alive today who wouldn't be alive if you weren't carrying out President Trump's effective plan to keep Americans safe."