Warp Speed Head Claims Vaccine Could Be 90 Percent Effective, Fauci Says 1bn Doses May Be Ready in 2021

One billion doses of a potential vaccine for the coronavirus may be ready by the end of next year, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, a leading infectious disease expert who sits on the White House coronavirus task force.

Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, made the comments in response to claims by Moncef Slaoui, the chief advisor of Operation Warp Speed, the U.S. government's effort to quickly develop a coronavirus vaccine. Eight companies have so far been chosen to receive funding.

Slaoui, a researcher and former head of pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline's vaccines department, told CNN Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen on Thursday a coronavirus vaccine may be 90 percent effective. He appeared to be referring to a vaccine being developed by biotech company Moderna and the National Institutes of Health.

On Monday the Moderna vaccine, which has backing from Operation Warp Speed, launched its Phase 3 trial. A day later, the researchers wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine that monkeys given the vaccine and infected with the coronavirus were protected from the germ and cleared it from their lungs.

"It's very hard to predict [effectiveness] of course, that's why we're doing the trial," Slaoui said. "My personal opinion based on my experience and the biology of this virus, I think this vaccine is going to be highly efficacious. I wouldn't be surprised if it's in the [range of] 90 percent. I think it will be a very effective vaccine. That's my prediction."

The question remained about how long a potential vaccine would be effective, he said, stating that once people are vaccinated, it may be the case that they need boosters every two or three years.

Slaoui also said his team are working hard to make a vaccine available by the end of this year or early next year, and hoped a few tens of million doses would be produced in December or January of next year. Preparations will not be available for the entire U.S. population "on day one," he said, but probably for those at highest risk of complications from COVID-19.

"But I am optimistic that we will have a vaccine for everybody within the year 2021, ideally within the first half of the year."

In a separate interview, CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta later asked Fauci to respond to Slaoui's comments. Fauci said Slaoui's prediction that it may be 90 percent effective was "very optimistic" and said he hoped it would be. The immunologist said data from Moderna's Phase 1 trial looked good, as the vaccine triggered neutralizing antibodies. But he said "the proof of the pudding is to do the clinical trial and get the result."

Gupta said he wanted to manage viewers' expectations, and asked Fauci whether Slaoui's claim regarding access to a vaccine was realistic. Fauci said Moderna has set up contracts with manufacturers and has started to make the vaccine despite not knowing if it works. This speeds up the process of getting vaccines out.

"They promise us that they will have, in 2021, at least a couple hundred million doses of vaccine, and maybe even by the end of the year of 2021, up to a billion. This is what they're telling us. I hope that's deliverable. If it is, we're going to have what was just promised."

Moderna's vaccine is among over 165 coronavirus vaccine candidates being developed around the world, with 26 in clinical trials according to the World Health Organization. Experts hope several vaccines will be successful, as this would make it easier to ensure people around the world are protected.

Russian officials told CNN on Thursday that researchers at the Gamaleya Institute in the capital Moscow are hoping to have a vaccine approved by August 10 or earlier. This follows the completion of Phase 2 trials by August 3, with Phase 3 to be carried out in parallel with the vaccination of healthcare workers. CNN said Russia had not released scientific data on its vaccine tests, and was unable to verify claims that it was safe or effective.

On Wednesday, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova told a government, meeting according to CNN, that the vaccine would be manufactured on a mass scale by September.

In the U.K., Adrian Hill, director of the Jenner Institute at the University of Oxford who is working on a coronavirus vaccine with AstraZeneca, told MSNBC's Brian Sullivan earlier this month it is "more than likely" to be effective. He forecast millions of doses would be ready by the end of the year and billions in the coming 12 months.

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Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci participates in a roundtable discussion on donating plasma at the American Red Cross National Headquarters on July 30, 2020 in Washington, DC. JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images