By Quentin Fottrell, MarketWatch
Dr. Anthony Fauci has some advice for New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and the four other states that have vowed to independently review the efficacy and safety of a vaccine before making it available to their residents. “Trust the process because it is a sound process,” he said.
Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told the Washington Post in a video interview Monday. “I myself will get vaccinated and I will recommend that my family gets vaccinated.” Nevada, Oregon and Washington and California will also hold their own reviews.
The veteran immunologist said a COVID-19 vaccine that makes it to market will be “independently” and “transparently” reviewed by a team of experts, himself included, and he urged people to take the vaccine. “If we want to protect the individual and all of society, we should take the vaccine,” Fauci said.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a Democrat, said last September that he would review any vaccines approved by the federal government, to ensure they are safe for residents of New York State. “Frankly, I’m not going to trust the federal government’s opinion,” he said.
Even if a vaccine receives approval from the Food and Drug Administration, Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, said he would took a similar stance, telling a news conference last month, “We don’t take anyone’s word for it. We will do our own, independently reviewed process with our world-class experts.”
Fauci said that was an unnecessary approach. “I can understand, but I don’t agree with their doing that,” he said. “They have heard mixed messages from Washington. I don’t fault them.” However, the doctor urged those five states not to delay a vaccine by repeating the work of the FDA.
During the first surge of the pandemic, President Donald Trump and Cuomo sparred over the supply of personal-protective equipment and the availability of ventilators for coronavirus patients. For his part, the president appeared to retaliate against Cuomo’s vaccine-review stance.
“These are coming from the greatest companies anywhere in the world, greatest labs in the world,” Trump said. “But he doesn’t trust the fact that it’s this White House, this administration, so we won’t be delivering it to New York until we have authorization to do so, and that pains me to say that.”
On Monday, AstraZeneca (NAS:AZN) and the University of Oxford said their coronavirus vaccine is up to 90% effective when administered as a half dose, and then a full dose one month later. Effectiveness falls to 62% when two full doses are given one month apart.
It was later revealed that initial half-dose, deemed as the more effective option by the company than two full doses, was given accidentally to participants. They were also 55 or under. That age group was not initially disclosed when AstraZeneca said the half and full dosage was more effective.
The firm defended these errors and apparent lack of transparency. “I’m not going to pretend it’s not an interesting result, because it is — but I definitely don’t understand it and I don’t think any of us do,” Mene Pangalos, AstraZeneca’s executive vice president for biopharmaceuticals R&D, said.
Earlier this month, BioNTech SE (NAS:BNTX) and Pfizer (NYS:PFE) announced progress in a vaccine and, on Wednesday, said a final analysis showed 95% rather than 90% efficacy. On Monday, Moderna (NAS:MRNA) said its vaccine candidate was 94.5% effective.
Johnson & Johnson (NYS:JNJ) ; Merck & Co. (JKT:ID:MERK) ; GlaxoSmithKline (NYS:GSK) ; and Sanofi (NYS:SAN) are also working on fast-track coronavirus vaccines. Moderna, Sanofi and AztraZeneca’s vaccines do not need to be kept ultra-low temperatures.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DOW:DJIA) broke 30,000 on Tuesday on vaccine news and progress in the transition of power to President-elect Joe Biden. The DJIA and S&P 500 Index (S&P:SPX) lost ground Wednesday; the Nasdaq Composite (AMERICAN:COMP) rose slightly.
As of Thursday, 60.4 million people worldwide had contracted COVID-19, with 1.4 million deaths, with 12.8 million cases in the U.S. and 262,266 fatalities, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University. Reported cases do not, for the most part, include asymptomatic cases.
Fatalities in the U.S. reached nearly 2,300 on Wednesday, the single worst day since the pandemic began. Hospitals in the Midwest and southern states including Texas and North Dakota continue to feel the strain. COVID-related hospitalizations are at their highest level (90,000) this year.
During his Washington Post interview, Fauci also reiterated his warning to Americans about Thanksgiving, and urged people to stay home and not travel to see relatives who may be vulnerable. Nearing 200,000 new cases a day and 1 million new cases over six days is concerning, he said.
However, he said that the American people have the power to change that trajectory. “The numbers can be stark, sobering and, in many cases, they can be frightening,” the doctor said. “I don’t want this to be a Doomsday statement. But you don’t have to accept these numbers as inevitable.”
Gatherings such as Thanksgiving, Fauci said, lead to transmission. “If you have people in your home that are not members of the immediate household, and you’re not really sure of their level of exposure, you should wear a mask indoors with the obvious exception of eating and drinking.”
“Better to be careful now,” he added, “and look forward to many more in the future.”