BY NIKHILA NATARAJAN
New York–Hours after AstraZeneca suspended the final testing of its potential Covid-19 vaccine because of a volunteer’s unexplained illness, America’s top medical experts at the forefront of the White House coronavirus task force promised lawmakers they are ready to roll up their sleeves and take the Covid-19 vaccine as soon as it is declared safe.
“I am ready to roll up my sleeve as soon as they say it is effective,” National Institutes of Health director Francis Collins said at a Senate hearing on vaccine safety. US Surgeon General Jerome Adams said he too is prepared to take the first jab in full public spotlight.
The NIH chief and the US Surgeon General sought to reassure Americans that there are “no compromises” on safety in developing the shots.
For its part, AstraZeneca hasn’t yet revealed if it knows whether the illness is a side effect of the vaccine trial or unconnected. The company gave no details on the illness, but Collins said it involved a “spinal problem.” The New York Times reported that it was a case of an inflammatory syndrome that affects the spine.
The latest developments come on a day of bombshell revelations from a new Bob Woodward book that quotes Trump, from taped conversations, saying he wanted to “play down” the virus although he knew it was “deadly stuff”. Trump is on record telling Woodward that he knew there was airborne transmission while he publicly pushed for reopening the economy and rallied his maskless supporters at superspreader events. Woodward’s book is his second on the Trump White House.
In recent months, worries have spiralled that US president Donald Trump will pressure the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to approve a vaccine in a tearing hurry before it is proven to be safe and effective.
FDA chief Dr. Stephen Hahn has already said the agency is prepared to bypass the typical federal approval process to make a vaccine available on the double.
During Wednesday’s hearing, Collins said the US is investing in “not one but six vaccine candidates” because of the expectation that they “won’t all work, although it would be lovely if they did.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the US government’s top infectious-disease expert and a member of the White House coronavirus task force has been emphatic that a vaccine would not be approved for Americans unless it was both safe and effective.
Fauci on Wednesday pushed back against the idea that a vaccine might be on the market before the US election.
Fauci told “CBS This Morning” that the country should know “by the end of the year” if one of the vaccine candidates currently in Phase 3 will be ready in the expected time frame.
“I have said from the beginning, given the way the trials have emerged now, including the one on hold now, the projection that I’ve made a” and will stick by it a” is that we’ll likely get an answer if it’s safe and effective by the end of the year, likely November or December.”
Under a program, Trump has named “Operation Warp Speed,” the US goal is to have 300 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine in stock by January. (IANS)