US NIH vaccine chief optimistic on prospects for SARS-CoV-2 vaccine

Mark Mascolini,

In a video by editor Anna Rothschild, the director of the Vaccine Research Center at the US National Institutes of Health, John Mascola, says, “I am quite hopeful that we will . . . find a vaccine that works [against SARS-CoV-2] in the time frames that people like Dr. Fauci have been talking about [within 18 months]. . . . I think the data we have from the laboratory side of things suggests that a vaccine should work against a coronavirus.”

The Rothschild video, “How Close Are We to a COVID-19 Vaccine?”, can be viewed online or assessed via the following slightly abbreviated and edited transcript. 

These are the key points:

  • A phase 1 trial of a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine has begun, the fastest a vaccine has ever entered clinical trials in the United States.
  • The tested vaccine is an mRNA vaccine, and if licensed it would be the first mRNA vaccine against a human disease.
  • mRNA vaccines are easy to design and make in quantities needed for human trials, but no facilities are set up to produce large quantities of an mRNA vaccine right now.
  • The new coronavirus does mutate but not as fast as HIV mutates, for example. So Dr. Mascola does not expect that SARS-CoV-2 would mutate away from a vaccine within months or years.
  • Preliminary reports have circulated about some recovered COVID-19 patients producing very low levels of antibodies. That might mean that some people could get COVID-19 more than once.
  • Dr. Mascola said that should not affect prospects for coronavirus vaccine efficacy, because such a vaccine would be designed to promote a strong immune response.

Ref: How Close Are We to a COVID-19 Vaccine?

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