TAMPA (NBC/AP) – There is an important update in the race for a coronavirus vaccine.
Johnson and Johnson has announced its vaccine candidate has begun the final stage of clinical trials in the U.S.
The company aims to enroll up to 60,000 adults in eight countries including the U.S.
If the vaccine is proven to be safe and effective… The company expects the first batches to be available for emergency use authorization in early 2021.
“We feel cautiously optimistic that we will be able to have a safe and effective vaccine, although there is never a guarantee of that,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, infectious disease chief at the National Institutes of Health, told a Senate committee.
But President Donald Trump is pushing for a faster timeline than many experts say is adequate to fully test the candidates. On Wednesday he tweeted a link to news about the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine study and said the Food and Drug Administration “must move quickly!”
“President Trump is still trying to sabotage the work of our scientists and public health experts for his own political ends,” Sen. Patty Murray, a Democrat from Washington state, said before ticking off examples of pressure on the FDA.
FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn pledged that career scientists, not politicians, will decide whether any coronavirus vaccine meets clearly stated standards that it works and is safe.
“Science will guide our decisions. FDA will not permit any pressure from anyone to change that,” Hahn said. “I will put the interest of the American people above anything else.”
As for the testing of vaccine candidates, Fauci added: “There is no cutting corners.”
This marks the fourth vaccine to enter late-stage trials in the U.S.
Johnson and Johnson says it will take at least two months to see initial results from the trial.
J&J’s vaccine is made with slightly different technology than others in late-stage testing, modeled on an Ebola vaccine the company created. Despite the later start than some competitors, Dr. Paul Stoffels, J&J’s chief scientific officer, told reporters that the study was large enough to yield answers possibly by early next year.
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