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June 9, 2020, 6:54 p.m. EDT

Fauci calls pandemic his ‘worst nightmare,’ warns ‘it isn’t over yet’

Infectious disease expert confident more than one vaccine will be developed

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By Mike Murphy

Bloomberg News
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Dr. Anthony Fauci on Tuesday called the coronavirus pandemic his “worst nightmare,” and warned that while he’s confident a vaccine will be developed, the outbreak is far from over.

“In a period of four months, it has devastated the whole world. And it isn’t over yet.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci

During an interview at a virtual conference held by the Biotechnology Innovation Organization , Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease expert, said he’s been most surprised by “how rapidly it just took over the planet.” He called the current pandemic one of the worst in world history, noting that while many easily transmissible diseases take six months to a year to span the globe, COVID-19 took just a month.

Fauci said the unique respiratory illness with such transmissibility and lethality “turned out to be my worst nightmare.”

He also dismissed hopes that the pandemic will be over anytime soon. “Where is it going to end? We’re still at the beginning of it,” he said.

Still, Fauci was optimistic that multiple treatments and more than one vaccine will be developed, and praised the response from the biotechnology industry.

“The industry is not stupid. They figured it out,” he said. “There’s going to be more than one winner in the vaccine field because we’re going to need vaccines for the entire world. Billions and billions of doses. So I’m almost certain that we’re going to have multiple candidates that make it to the goal line get approved and get widely used.”

A number of vaccine candidates are already undergoing human testing, and a highly touted vaccine candidate from Moderna Inc. /zigman2/quotes/205619834/composite MRNA -1.36%   will start a key phase 3 trial in July.

As of Tuesday, there have been about 7.2 million coronavirus cases worldwide , with more than 408,000 deaths, including more than 111,000 deaths in the U.S, according to date from Johns Hopkins University .

Also Tuesday, the World Health Organization backtracked on comments Monday that COVID-19 transmission by asymptomatic patients was “very rare.” Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove said Tuesday that her comments made during a previous news briefing were a “misunderstanding.”

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