Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn said Sunday that he would not make a prediction about when a coronavirus vaccine would be available after President Trump claimed that a vaccine or therapeutic would be ready “long before the end of the year.”
In a Fourth of July address in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, Trump said that the U.S. was unleashing its “scientific brilliance” toward developing treatments for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
“And we’ll likely have a therapeutic and/or vaccine solution long before the end of the year,” Trump said.
When asked about the comments Sunday on ABC Hahn said that the FDA is currently overseeing 141 clinical trials of potential COVID-19 therapeutic treatments. However, he said that he was not in a position to make a judgment about timelines for a vaccine.
“I can’t predict when a vaccine will be available,” he said, noting that the agency issued guidance about the development process last week.
“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,” he added. “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.”
The World Health Organization said in April that clinical trials had begun for three vaccines, with more than 70 in development.
Leading health officials have said that it is possible for a vaccine to be ready for use by January. But they have also voiced caution about the timeline, noting the importance of ensuring that a vaccine is effective first.
Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert and a key member of the White House coronavirus task force, said in an Interview in May “any time you develop a vaccine, you always remember, you always have a question that you may not get an effective vaccine.”
“Even if you do everything right and you do everything on time, there’s no guarantee you’re going to have an effective vaccine. So when we talk about having a vaccine that might be available in December or January, that’s assuming that the vaccine is actually effective,” he said.
Speaking in an interview for the Aspen Ideas Festival last week, Fauci said that he would settle for a vaccine that was 70 to 75 percent effective. But he noted that it was unlikely the U.S. would be able to combat the outbreak if roughly 30 percent of the population refused to take one. Recent survey results indicate that substantial portions of the population are hesitant about receiving a vaccine.
President Trump previously predicted that a vaccine would be ready by the end of the year. The prediction was timed with news that the administration was pushing agencies to accelerate the vaccine development process with a project called “Operation Warp Speed.”
“I think we’re going to have a vaccine much sooner than later,” he said at the time.
As of Sunday, the U.S. had reported more than 2.8 million confirmed cases of the coronavirus and roughly 129,000 deaths caused by it. The country reported a 54,500 cases of the virus on Thursday alone, according to a Johns Hopkins University database, representing a new single-day high.
During his comments in Washington, Trump touted the U.S. testing capacity, claiming that it shows 99 percent of cases are “totally harmless.”
Asked for evidence about the claim, Hahn said on Sunday that “this is a very rapidly moving pandemic” and that “any death, any case is tragic, and we want to do everything we can to prevent that.” He added that that the U.S. would stop the upward trend in cases so long as people followed health protocols, including wear face masks in public and adhering to social-distancing restrictions.