By Liz Szabo, Kaiser Health News, which is a nonprofit news service covering health issues. It is an editorially independent program of KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation) that is not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.
(Kaiser Health News)A COVID-19 vaccine could be available earlier than expected if ongoing clinical trials produce overwhelmingly positive results, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease official, in an interview Tuesday with KHN.Although two ongoing clinical trials of 30,000 volunteers are expected to conclude by the end of the year, Fauci said an independent board has the authority to end the trials weeks early if interim results are overwhelmingly positive or negative.
The Data and Safety Monitoring Board could say, “‘The data is so good right now that you can say it’s safe and effective,'” Fauci said. In that case, researchers would have “a moral obligation” to end the trial early and make the active vaccine available to everyone in the study, including those who had been given placebos — and accelerate the process to give the vaccine to millions.
Fauci’s comments come at a time of growing concern about whether political pressure from the Trump administration could influence federal regulators and scientists overseeing the nation’s response to the novel coronavirus pandemic, and erode shaky public confidence in vaccines. Prominent vaccine experts have said they fear Trump is pushing for an early vaccine approval to help win reelection.