Fauci Addresses Concerns That Vaccines Are Moving Too Fast to Be Safe

Yasmin Tayag
Medium Coronavirus Blog
2 min readJul 31, 2020

On Friday, Anthony Fauci, MD, White House coronavirus task force expert and head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, testified in front of a House subcommittee on the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus. He answered many questions on vaccines — specifically, whether the rapid speed at which the U.S. is pursuing them might compromise the safety of the end product. Vaccines typically take up to a decade to develop, but Operation Warp Speed, the White House’s effort to fast-track vaccine production, aims to make one available to Americans by January 2021.

In his response to questions from Rep. Jackie Walorski about when the vaccine would be available to everyone and whether it would be safe, Fauci maintained that the U.S. will have a vaccine by the end of 2020 and that it will become available to Americans in 2021. He said that no safety measures would be skipped in the vaccine development process, emphasizing the role of scientific data in determining a vaccine’s safety.

“We at the NIH are doing the vaccine studies with the companies,” he said. “The FDA will look at that data, and on a science-based decision, will make a determination as to the safety and efficacy and whether or not it will be approved.” He added: “Historically, the FDA has based their decisions on science. They will do it this time, also, I’m certain.”

Getting a safe and effective vaccine to Americans by 2021 will require condensing a process that takes 10 years into a little over a year, which is no easy feat. Rep. Carolyn Maloney asked: “Is it dreaming?”

“It’s reality,” said Fauci. “I believe it will occur.”

Acknowledging that, to some people, the process is moving so fast that it seems like there might be compromises to safety or scientific integrity, he said: “I can tell you that is absolutely not the case.” The U.S. is able to move so fast, he explained, because of the “very different technologies” deployed over the course of the pandemic, starting with the moment the pathogen was identified and moving from Phase 1 trials to Phase 3 trials. The biotech company Moderna, which has received almost $1 billion in support from the U.S. government, launched its Phase 3 trial on July 27. The White House has deals with several other drugmakers to find and create doses of a vaccine, including a contract with Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline for up to $2.1 billion, announced today.

“That is not reckless rushing. That was technology and doing things in a way that does not compromise any of the steps,” he said. “So I don’t think it’s dreaming, Congresswoman, I believe it’s a reality. And will be shown to be a reality.”

Yasmin Tayag
Medium Coronavirus Blog

Editor, Medium Coronavirus Blog. Senior editor at Future Human by OneZero. Previously: science at Inverse, genetics at NYU.