Covid-19 vaccine in late February: White House
WASHINGTON, Feb 16: White House trade adviser Peter Navarro has said that testing and production of a coronavirus disease (Covid-19) drug could start as soon as late February.
In an interview, Navarro also said that 150 million doses of this vaccine could "hopefully" be available by "as early as next November." Five large American companies were already working on this project, he added.
A US biotech firm Gilead announced earlier this month that has reached an agreement with China to try its antiviral drug Remdesivir on patients
with coronavirus. Gilead is known for its HIV and hepatitis C treatments but it's now also focusing on finding a cure for the deadly respiratory disease.
Navarro said that the White House was "moving at Trump time" on a treatment drug and they were hopeful testing and production could begin "as early as the end of the month, mid-March."
He said that Gilead's Remdesivir "looks promising" as well and "the thing that we need absolutely to do is get that into rapid clinical trials."To make the drug available, "we're going down a different avenue," Navarro said. "If we can get that done, we can ramp the production up and have that to treat people."
The new virus has spread rapidly since emerging late last year in China, killing more than 800 people in the mainland and infecting over 37,000. Cases have been reported in two dozen other countries.
Coming up with any vaccine typically takes years, and involves a lengthy process of testing on animals, clinical trials on humans and regulatory approvals. But several teams of experts are racing to develop one quicker, backed by an international coalition that aims to combat emerging diseases, and Australian scientists hope their's could be ready in six months.
"It is a high-pressure situation and there is a lot of weight on us," said senior researcher Keith Chappell, part of the group from Australia's University of Queensland. But the scientist added he took "some solace" knowing several teams around the world were engaged in the same mission.
"The hope is that one of these will be successful and can contain this outbreak," he said. But even a timeframe of six months looks agonisingly slow with the virus, believed to have emerged from a market selling wild animals, killing close to 100 people every day in mainland China.
Efforts are being led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), a body established in 2017 to finance costly biotechnology research in the wake of an Ebola outbreak in West Africa that killed more than 11,000 people.
With a mission to speed up the development of vaccines, CEPI is pouring millions of dollars into four projects around the world and has put out a call for more proposals.