A vaccine for the coronavirus could take more than a year to develop, a top health official said Wednesday, according to Fox News.
The timeline given by Anthony Fauci of the National Institute of Health (NIH) contradicted President Donald Trump’s assurances earlier in the presser that a vaccine for the disease now known as COVID-19 is coming along “rapidly,” Fox reported. “We can’t rely on a vaccine,” Fauci said.
“This might be bad”
There are now 60 confirmed cases of the disease in the United States, most of those affecting repatriated Americans from a Japanese cruise ship, Diamond Princess, and returning travelers from the epicenter of the outbreak in Wuhan, China. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urged Americans this week to prepare for the coronavirus to spread through America, warning, “This might be bad.”
But at his press conference Wednesday evening, Trump sought to reassure Americans that everything is under control as he announced that he is putting Vice President Mike Pence in charge of responding to the crisis. The president added that the risk to the public remains low and that a vaccine is coming along “rapidly,” even as Fauci estimated that it would probably take at least a year for it to be ready.
Echoing remarks he made earlier in the week to CNN alleging that it will take “at least a year to a year and a half” to develop and approve the vaccine, the NIH official told reporters Wednesday that it would probably take about six months to complete a “phase one” vaccine trial of 45 people, and then another six to eight months to determine the vaccine’s effectiveness on hundreds or thousands of people. At that rate, the vaccine would not be applicable to the current epidemic, but it could help fight the disease if the flu-like virus recurs next year.
“Although this is the fastest we have ever gone from a sequence of a virus to a trial, it still would not be any applicable to the epidemic unless we really wait about a year to a year and a half,” Fauci explained, according to a transcript of his remarks provided by the White House.
Trump also gave himself credit at the presser for issuing travel restrictions to China, even though Democrats called him “racist” for doing so. And he elicited laughter from the press pool with an animated story about his aversion to germs.
“Wash your hands. Stay clean. You don’t have to necessarily grab every hand rail unless you have to,” Trump said, according to The Hill. “I mean, view this as the same as the flu. When somebody sneezes — I mean, I try to bail out as much as possible with the sneezing.”
While Trump has projected confidence in managing the crisis, Democrats have criticized the president for downplaying the threat and responding inadequately to it. Trump has asked for $2.5 billion for research into the disease, but Democrats are asking for about three times that amount. Meanwhile, the president has blamed Democrats and the media for stoking panic, perhaps to hurt his election odds.
“She’s trying to create a panic and there is no reason to panic,” Trump said in response to criticism from Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Fox News reported. “All they are trying to is get a political advantage, but this shouldn’t be a political thing.”
Stocks have also taken a hit as global anxiety mounts and supply chains in China have been disrupted, CNBC noted. COVID-19 is now spreading more quickly outside of China, where the virus originated, than inside the country, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned this week, according to NPR.
The number of cases is growing particularly in Italy, which reportedly has the most cases in the West at more than 400. Meanwhile, a person in northern California who has not traveled since the outbreak began was confirmed to have the virus, in what might be the first sign that the disease is spreading locally in America.
There are some 80,000 cases worldwide, Reuters reported. Still, Trump maintained Wednesday that “the risk to the American people remains very low.”
“We’re ready to adapt,” he said, “and we’re ready to do whatever we have to.”