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Friday, September 4, 2020

Trump contradicts health officials, says 'probably' a Covid-19 vaccine in October


President Donald Trump again suggested that a coronavirus vaccine would “probably” be available in October, contradicting assessments this week by top health officials who have said it would be very unlikely.

Trump said in a press briefing Friday that there would be a vaccine “before the end of the year and maybe even before Nov. 1. I think we can probably have it sometime in October.”

The president's remarks came a day after the head of the government's vaccine accelerator, Moncef Slaoui, said that the government was "very unlikely" to greenlight a vaccine by early November, because data from late-stage clinical trials of leading vaccine candidates would not be ready by then.

"There is a very, very low chance that the trials that are running as we speak could read before the end of October,” said Slaoui, who heads the government's Operation Warp Speed, told NPR. “I think it's extremely unlikely but not impossible, and therefore it's the right thing to do to be prepared in case."

He is not alone in urging caution. While three vaccine developers have entered the final stages of trials, phase III, the studies take months and enroll tens of thousands of people.

The federal government's top infectious disease expert, Anthony Fauci, also cautioned this week that result could take longer.


“If you look at the projection of the enrollment and the kinds of things you'll need to get a decision about whether the vaccine is safe and effective, most of us project that that's going to be by November and December, by the end of this year,” Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, said on CNN. “It is conceivable that you could have it by October, though I don't think that that's likely.”

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla told reporters this week that the company will know if its coronavirus vaccine works by the end of October. But it is unclear whether the Food and Drug Administration, the agency responsible for reviewing vaccines, would issue an emergency use authorization or approve the shot based on that data.

Trump had previously suggested that a vaccine could be ready before the election, and last month accused government scientists of trying to delay progress until after Nov. 3.

Meanwhile public confidence in coronavirus vaccines has slipped, with just 14 percent of voters be more likely to take a vaccine recommended by Trump, according to a POLITICO/Morning Consult poll.

But both Slaoui and FDA's top vaccine official Peter Marks have said they would quit their jobs if a shot was rubber stamped without enough data. FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn has also denied politics would play any role in their decisions.

The FDA has scheduled a public meeting for its vaccine advisory committee, a panel out outside experts, to discuss coronavirus vaccines on Oct. 22.



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