Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, testified before hearing the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Work and Pensions (HELP) on June 30, 2020 on Capitol Hill in Washington DC in Washington DC.
Kevin Dietsch | AFP via Getty Images
The White House Coronavirus Advisor, Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Friday that a coronavirus vaccine will probably not be "widely available" to the American public until "several months" after 2021.
Public health officials and scientists expect to know whether at least one of the many potential Covid-19 vaccines under development will be safe and effective by late December or early next year, said the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious diseases during a live questions and answers with the Washington Post.
"It is likely that we will have tens of millions of doses available early next year," said Fauci, adding that some drug companies have predicted more doses. "I think if we arrived a few months later in 2021, you would have vaccines that are widely available."
Health officials say there is no return to "normal" until there is a vaccine. According to Johns Hopkins University, there are no FDA-approved drugs or vaccines against the coronavirus that infected more than 15 million people worldwide and killed at least 633,656 people by Friday. According to the World Health Organization, more than 150 potential vaccines are being developed worldwide, of which at least 25 are already in human trials. The biotech company Moderna, which works with the National Institutes of Health, released promising data on its potential vaccine last week and is expected to start a late study next week.
Although scientists believe an effective vaccine will be available by next year, there is no guarantee. While drug manufacturers are running to produce millions of vaccine doses, there is a possibility that the vaccine will need two doses instead of one, which may further limit the number of people who can be vaccinated once a vaccine is available, experts say.
In addition, scientists say that questions remain about how the human body reacts when it is infected with the virus. The answers could have important implications for vaccine development, including how quickly they can be made available to the public.
A critical question among scientists is whether antibodies produced in response to Covid-19 offer protection against re-infection.
Scientists hope the antibodies will provide some protection against Covid-19, but they can't say for sure yet, since the virus was discovered just over six months ago. It has not been studied in detail and some patients appear to have been reinfected after recovery from Covid-19.
A recent study published in the journal Nature Medicine found that coronavirus antibodies may only last two to three months after being infected with Covid-19. The researchers examined 37 asymptomatic people who were infected but never developed symptoms in the Wanzhou district of China. They compared their antibody response with that of 37 people with symptoms.
Fauci spoke against antibodies on Friday, saying that this is an area where "we need more information". In addition to antibodies, other aspects of the immune response, such as T cells, could play a role in protecting against the virus, he added.
"We are only six months after the outbreak," he said. "Since we're only six months old, we don't know how long (antibodies) last for most people. But the fact is … there are some people who have antibodies for a short time. We need to know what that means. "
"Again we learn over the weeks and months, but we don't have all the information we need," he said.