The White House’s Coronavirus Task Force that includes leaders of Operation Warp Speed (OWS), who are tasked with developing a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of this year, told a US Senate Appropriations subcommittee that it is on track to meet its goal.
OWS team brings federal officials, researchers, and pharma companies in an effort to develop, manufacture, and distribution of a vaccine and drugs.
Director of the National Institutes of Health Dr. Francis Collins said, “In record time, the very first vaccine [Moderna’s mRNA-1273] went from knowing what the sequence of this viral genome was to injecting the first patient in a phase 1 trial in 63 days. That’s a world record by a long shot.”
Moderna’s mRNA-1273 vaccine candidate entered into Phase III clinical trials on May 29, which involves 30,000 participants, according to Dr. Collins.
Globally, more than a dozen vaccine candidates are undergoing clinical trials.
Dr. Collins said, “We are all optimistic that the goal we have set to have a vaccine that works and is safe by the end of 2020 will be met by one of the vaccines. We would then have by early 2021 300 million doses of a vaccine that is safe and effective.”
On June 1, Pfizer announced promising results of its vaccine candidate from a Phase I clinical trial, according to Dr. Gary Disbrow, acting director of Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA). He said, “We’re ramping up manufacturing.”
Dr. Disbrow was asked about how the components of the vaccination process have been handled. He said, “This pandemic has highlighted the vulnerability in our supply chains for medical devices, raw materials, and pharmaceutical ingredients.”
“We are working for needles and syringes and vials to expand domestic capacity so we don’t have to worry about this in the near future,” Dr. Disbrow continued. “We are also working with all of our manufacturers to ensure that they acquire all of the raw materials needed to manufacture vaccines and therapeutics ― because therapeutics are also important ― so they can manufacture at scale.”
CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield told the panel they have been working on the twin priorities of vaccine distribution and vaccine acceptance.
Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) said, “People in the black community, Latino community, and tribal communities are three to five times more likely to be hospitalized for COVID-19 than white people, and the death rate for people of color is two to three times that for white people.”
She agreed that a COVID-19 vaccine is the best hope to combat the pandemic, adding she is “alarmed that while this administration has invested heavily in vaccine development, it is treating other priorities as an afterthought by investing far less in better diagnostics that can identify infections early in the course of the illness and prevent further spread.” Murray said, “A vaccine that is fast but ineffective will fall short of what is needed to turn the tide on this pandemic.”