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US coronavirus: Keep Covid-19 vaccines off the fast track, experts caution

As many hope for a vaccine to bring Covid-19 under control, a leading vaccine expert warned against using an emergency use authorization (EUA) to put one on the US market as soon as possible.

“How can you justify a substandard or lesser review for something that would be injected in tens of millions, maybe hundreds of millions of Americans?” Dr. Peter Hotez, a professor and the dean of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, said in series of social media posts Wednesday.

EUA’s allow the FDA to greenlight unapproved medical products without going through the complete lengthy process needed for full approval. But Hotez urged federal health agencies to “follow that process” for a vaccine so significant.

Three vaccines for a virus that has infected more than 6.1 million Americans are currently in Phase 3 testing in the US, which experts have called impressively quick. Officials have insisted no vaccine will be distributed to the public until it is effective and safe, but they differ on when that might be. Many, including the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci, say early 2021 would be a good estimate, while other officials are eyeing the coming months.

President Donald Trump has predicted that there will be a vaccine available in time for the November 3 election, and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told public health officials around to US to prepare to distribute one as soon as late October. But health experts say those predictions aren’t realistic.

“This is like the Boy Scout motto, ‘Be Prepared,'” Director of the National Institutes for Health Dr. Francis Collins said. “Even if it’s very low likelihood, if everything happened to come together really beautifully and we had an answer by then and we knew we had a vaccine that was safe and effective, wouldn’t you want people to be ready to figure out how to do the distribution? That’s all that CDC is saying.”

With the upcoming Labor Day weekend, Fauci pleaded with Americans not to repeat the mistakes of past holidays.

“We know from prior experience that when you get into holiday weekends — the Fourth of July, Memorial Day — there’s a tendency of people to be careless, somewhat, with regard to the public health measures that we keep recommending over and over again,” Fauci said in an interview with MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell Wednesday.

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