Dr. Anthony Fauci testified on Tuesday, May 11 that researchers should know if potential coronavirus vaccines are effective by early winter, and warned that lifting social distancing guidelines could cause “really serious” consequences, including the risk of future outbreaks of the deadly disease.
Fauci, who is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in testimony before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee that clinical trials for coronavirus vaccines are currently underway in the U.S. and that results from those initial trials would come later this year.
He also added that there could be multiple successful vaccines if these early trials go well.
“We have many candidates and hope to have multiple winners,” Fauci said. But he said that a vaccine won’t be ready in time for the fall school semesters, and said returning society to normal too soon would risk dangerous flare-ups.
“My concern is that we will start to see little spikes that might turn into outbreaks,” he said.
On Monday, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Director-General, said that there are about seven or eight top vaccine candidates right now, according to the Associated Press.
About 35 companies and academic institutions are searching for a vaccine, two of the candidate vaccines are in phase-1 clinical trials, and over 40 are in preclinical development. A few have begun testing in animals, while biotech firm Moderna has already started human trials on one potential vaccine.
Even with these vaccine candidates in the works, experts are predicting it will take about 18 months for a vaccine to become widely available.
Microsoft Co-Founder Bill Gates has said that a coronavirus vaccine is one of the crucial innovations needed to end quarantines and return to normalcy.
“Every additional month that it takes to produce a vaccine is a month in which the economy cannot completely return to normal,” Gates wrote in a Washington Post op-ed last month.
Gates said he is most excited about an RNA vaccine, which makes disease-fighting antigens inside the body, rather than in a lab.
For the latest updates on the novel coronavirus outbreak, visit the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 page.