President Trump on Saturday said it was ‘likely’ that either a vaccine or a therapeutic to treat patients infected with the coronavirus would be available ‘long before the end of the year.’
‘I want to send our thanks to the scientists and researchers around the country and even around the world who are at the forefront of our historic effort to rapidly develop and deliver life-saving treatments and ultimately a vaccine,’ the president said at the second annual July 4th Salute to America event at the White House on Saturday.
‘We are unleashing our nation’s scientific brilliance and we’ll likely have a therapeutic and/or vaccine solution long before the end of the year.’
But a member of Trump’s coronavirus task force declined to endorse the president’s prediction on Sunday.
‘I can’t predict when a vaccine will be available,’ Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn told ABC’s This Week.
‘Yes, we are seeing unprecedented speed for the development of a vaccine.
President Trump (seen above on the South Lawn of the White House on Saturday) said that either a vaccine or a therapeutic to treat COVID-19 will be available ‘long before the end of the year’
A nurse poses with a nasal swab at JFK International Airports Terminal 4 XpresCheck, the first airport-based COVID-19 testing facility in the United States, last week
‘But as you know… we issued guidance this past week about vaccine development, because we want to be very clear: our solemn promise to the American people is that we will make a decision based upon the data and science on a vaccine, with respect to the safety and effectiveness of that vaccine.’
‘When those data become available, and I hope those data are available sooner rather than later, we will make that judgment based upon those data and that science,’ Hahn said.
On Thursday, Hahn told ABC News that the US may not see a coronavirus vaccine finish development until next year.
‘We are on target to reach a vaccine by years end or early next year,’ Hahn told Good Morning America on Thursday.
‘So, I’m cautiously optimistic.’
The nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said this week that COVID-19 vaccine candidates will enter late-stage clinical studies by the end of the month, with others beginning in August, September and October.
The news comes as Moderna Inc, which is at the forefront of the country’s vaccine development efforts, reiterated earlier in the day that a late-stage trial with 30,000 volunteers would begin this month.
‘We may be able to at least know whether we are dealing with a safe and effective vaccine by the early winter, late winter, (or) beginning of 2021,’ Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in an interview to JAMA Network.
‘Multiple (vaccine) candidates are at different stages of development,’ Fauci said.
‘We are hopeful that one or more of them may actually show a good degree of safety… and efficacy.’
But Dr. Stephen Hahn, the director of the Food and Drug Administration, declined to back up Trump’s claim during an interview on television on Sunday
On Thursday, Dr. Francis Collins, the director of the US National Institutes of Health, said the Trump administration’s vaccine-acceleration program could generate a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine by year-end.
Companies including Pfizer and AstraZeneca are racing to develop a vaccine for COVID-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus that has killed more than 531,000 worldwide, according to a Johns Hopkins University & Medicine tally.
Typical vaccine development can take as long as a decade.
But a vaccine is the best hope to stop the ever-climbing coronavirus death toll, so countries, companies and scientists the world-over have been racing to trim the timeline to a year, or less.
Globally, there are more than 145 potential vaccines in development.
About 10 vaccines are underway in the US, and several US companies have partnered with international firms or universities.
The WHO considers the vaccine developed by Oxford University with AstraZeneca the leader of the pack, but the agency’s chief scientist said that Moderna’s is close behind.
Moderna’s is considered the lead candidate vaccine in the US, both in terms of timeline and promising earlier trial results
Moderna’s vaccine was meant to enter phase 3 trials to test its safety and efficacy in humans next week, but the trial will be delayed due to changes to the study plan, starting instead by the end of the month, the company said on Thursday
‘The furthest along in US testing is an experimental vaccine from NIH’s vaccine research center in partnership with Moderna,’ Collins said at Senate Appropriations hearing earlier on Thursday.
‘This month we’ll seek to enroll 30,000 volunteers with results expected in a few months.’
The US has dipped under 50,000 new daily infections for the first time in four days, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University, but experts fear celebrations for the July 4th weekend will act like rocket fuel for the nation’s surging coronavirus outbreak.
Johns Hopkins on Sunday counted 45,300 new coronavirus infections reported Saturday in the US after three days in which the daily count reached as high as 54,500 new cases.
The lower figure does not mean the situation in the US is improving, it could be due to reduced reporting on a national holiday.
The US has the most infections and virus-related deaths in the world, with 2.8 million cases and nearly 130,000 dead, according to the university.
Experts say the true toll of the pandemic is significantly higher, due to people who died before they were tested and missed mild cases.
To show just how steep the US infection curve is, authorities were reporting under 20,000 new infections a day as recently as June 15.
On Saturday, Florida and Texas reported more record daily increases in confirmed cases and virus-related deaths have begun to rise.
Despite warnings by health experts to limit gatherings, Trump went ahead with a speech at Mount Rushmore in South Dakota on Friday and an evening of tribute and fireworks Saturday on the National Mall in Washington.
‘We got hit by the virus that came from China,’ the president said on Saturday.
‘And we’ve made a lot of progress, our strategy is moving along well.
‘It goes out in one area and rears back its ugly face in another area.
‘But we’ve learned a lot. We’ve learned how to put out the flame.’
Trump said that the US has tested ‘almost 40 million people’ and that the increased testing explains the rise in the number of cases.
Pat Lee of Upper Dublin, Pennsylvania, and two friends, none in masks, gathered near the event in Washington.
‘POTUS said it would go away,’ Lee said of the pandemic, using an acronym for president of the United States.
‘Masks, I think, are like a hoax.’
In another worrying sign, the World Health Organization said member states reported more than 212,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 around the world on Saturday, the highest single-day increase since the start of the pandemic.
The Geneva-based organization said more than 60 per cent of the confirmed cases reports it received were in the Americas, which includes the US and Brazil.
Faced with rising infections, many US communities canceled parades and fireworks and cautioned people against hosting large gatherings.
Texas, which reported a record daily increase of 8,258 confirmed coronavirus cases Saturday, is retreating from what had been one of the country’s swiftest reopenings.
Much of the state began mandating face coverings Friday, with a $250 fine for scofflaws.
In Florida, which reported 11,445 confirmed infections on Saturday, bars statewide are shut down and some regional attractions, such as Zoo Miami and Jungle Island, have closed.
Officials in South Florida – including in Miami-Dade County and the Florida Keys – also closed beaches through the weekend.
Other beaches remained open.
At St. Pete Beach on the Gulf of Mexico, parking spaces were scarce and hundreds clustered under umbrellas and in cabanas on the sand.
Keisha Pereira came to the beach from Osceola County – more than 100 miles inland – with her daughter and two other children.
‘We’re going to stay with each other,’ she said. ‘I feel pretty safe outside.’
The holiday weekend coincided with a big step back this week for California’s efforts to reopen the state’s economy.
A police officer walks away from local residents protesting closed beaches on the 4th of July in Galveston, Texas, on Saturday
Governor Gavin Newsom ordered a three-week closure of bars and many indoor establishments in counties where some 30 million people live.
In several California regions, economic woes prompted campaigns to convince state residents to travel within its borders.
But public health experts and mayors of popular beach towns Santa Cruz and Half Moon Bay pleaded with people to stay home for the holiday.
Crista Luedtke said demand has been ‘bonkers’ since reopening the 14-room Boon Hotel and Spa that she owns in the Sonoma County town of Guerneville.
Guests must stay at least two nights and are assigned lounges near the pool.
‘Tourism is not dangerous,’ Luedtke said.
‘I think people not following the rules is dangerous.’