Anthony Fauci, director of the NIH’s National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), said yesterday that he still believes a COVID-19 vaccine could be deployed by the end of the year.
“I still think we have a good chance — if all the things fall in the right place — that we might have a vaccine that is deployable by the end of the year,” he said, even though there are a lot of “landmines and hiccups” in vaccine development.
Fauci also commented on France’s decision to ban the use of hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19 patients. He said the problems associated with the drug are “really quite evident,” but he stopped short of saying it should be banned in the U.S. for treatment of COVID patients.
“I’m not so sure you’d want to ban it, but certainly the data are clear right now,” he said.
France issued an order Wednesday banning hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for COVID-19 after a study of almost 15,000 patients found that the drug offered no benefit and was linked to increased heart arrythmias and deaths (DID, May 26). The World Health Organization has also suspended the hydroxychloroquine arm of its multinational Solidarity Trial while it conducts a safety review.
But other trials are going ahead, including an NIAID phase 2b study of hydroxychloroquine with the antibiotic azithromycin for treatment of mild to moderate cases of COVID-19 (DID, May 15).
NIAID saidthat it is aware of the safety concerns regarding the combination, but that the trial excludes persons with underlying conditions that would predispose them to complications from azithromycin and/or hydroxychloroquine. — Jordan Williams