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Two more Covid vaccine candidates are likely just around the corner, a development that would provide a much-needed boost to the US programme to vaccinate millions of its citizens, Dr Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, has said.
A pair of vaccines from the drugmakers AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson have wrapped up their clinical trials and could be cleared for use in the US within “a few weeks” pending the government review process, Dr Fauci said in an interview on NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday.
The drug companies’ own safety monitoring boards will first need to ensure the data from their clinical trials is sound and proves they have a safe, effective vaccine.
Then they’ll present it to the Food and Drug Administration in a bid for “emergency use authorisation,” a fast-track green light for the drugs to begin making their way into Americans’ arms.
“Their data, I think very soon – I would imagine within a period of a week or so, or at the most a couple of weeks – they're going to be getting their data together and showing it to the FDA,” Dr Fauci said.
The FDA will then make a quick, yet thorough, determination on the new vaccines’ emergency use.
“We're weeks away, not months away. For sure,” Dr Fauci said.
The FDA has already fast-tracked two other Covid vaccines into distribution in the US, from the drugmakers Pfizer and Moderna.
The vaccine distribution programme under the Trump administration has faced several hurdles and setbacks, and the nation is several million doses behind schedule.
By 1 January, the federal government had reached just over 10 per cent of its goal to administer at least a first vaccine dosage to 20m Americans. By that point, just 2.1m Americans had received the jab.
By last Thursday, 11.1m shots had been administered, despite 30.6m doses having been shipped all across the country.
President-elect Joe Biden has said it is his goal for 100m Americans to be vaccinated within his first 100 days in office.
That is “doable,” Dr Fauci said on Sunday.
"The issue of getting 100 million doses in the first 100 days, is absolutely a doable thing. What the president-elect is going to do is, where need be, to invoke the [Defense Production Act] to get the kinds of things they need. Whatever they may be, be they tests, be they vaccines or what have you,” he said.
“In other words, to just not be hesitant to use whatever mechanisms we can to get everything on track and on the flow that we predict. But the feasibility of his goal is absolutely clear, there’s no doubt about it. That can be done.”
Mr Biden takes office this Wednesday.