U.S. surgeon general tells states to be ready for COVID-19 vaccine by November ‘just in case’

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A subject receives a shot in the first-stage safety study clinical trial of a potential vaccine by Moderna for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle in March.. According to results released on Tuesday, early-stage testing showed the first COVID-19 vaccine tested in the U.S. revved up people’s immune systems the way scientists had hoped. The vaccine is made by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

States across the United States should be prepared to distribute a coronavirus vaccine by November 1 “just in case” one is ready, Dr. Jerome Adams, the US Surgeon General said.

“We’ve always said that we are hopeful for a vaccine by the end of this year or beginning of next year,” Adams said in an ABC News interview Friday. “That said, it’s not just about having a vaccine that is safe and effective — it’s about being ready to distribute it.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has asked public health officials in the states to prepare to distribute a coronavirus vaccine by late October or early November. As of Saturday, more than 6.2 million coronavirus cases have been reported in the US since the pandemic began and 188,252 people have died, according to a tally of cases by Johns Hopkins University.

Adams reiterated comments by public health officials saying that a coronavirus vaccine is possible but not probable by those dates.

When asked whether the November goal has more to do with science or reelection efforts, Adams said, “What people need to understand is we have what are called data safety monitoring boards that blind the data, so it won’t be possible to actually move forward unless this independent board thinks that there is good evidence that these vaccines are efficacious.”

Adams said the data from Phase 1 and Phase 2 trials have been positive.

“The most telling thing I can say to people is that when there is a COVID-19 vaccine available, I and my family will be in line to get it,” Adams said. “I think it will be safe, I think it will be effective and I think it will help us end this outbreak.”

Not enough Black or Latino patients in vaccine trials, data suggests

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN Friday he would call out any political interference involving the approval of a COVID-19 vaccine in the US if he saw it.

Sources in the administration have told CNN President Trump is ramping up pressure on health officials to approve a COVID-19 vaccine before the November election.

“I’m not a regulator, I mean, I just do the science. I’d report the science in an accurate way, and certainly if I saw interference, I would be very disturbed and call it out,” Fauci said. He added that he had faith the Food and Drug Administration would do what’s right.

But the latest data suggests there are not enough minorities being enrolled in Moderna and Pfizer’s COVID-19 Phase 3 vaccine trials.

Minority enrollment in the trials is important because the vaccine might work differently in people of color than in White people, and Covid-19 has hit Black and Latino communities particularly hard.

Fauci told CNN that Phase 3 clinical trials for coronavirus vaccines should aim to include minorities at levels that are at least double their representation in the population to better reflect the population most affected by Covid-19.

That would mean 37% of the study participants would be Latino, and 27% would be Black.

This past week, 26% of the study subjects enrolled in Moderna’s trial were either Black or Latino, while as of August 31, 19% of the study subjects enrolled in Pfizer’s trial were either Black or Latino.

Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel told CNBC that the company’s goal is for the clinical trial enrollment to line up with data from the US Census Bureau.

According to that data, 18.5% of the US population is Latino, and 13.4% is Black.

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