The question of prices for a COVID-19 vaccine have raged in recent days. Gary Disbrow, acting director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), told members of a Senate committee that vaccines developed with the help of taxpayer funding will come with an appropriate reduction in price. However, CDC Director Robert Redfield emphasized that the cold-chain distribution system for those products requires the same kind of at-risk investment that is used for vaccine development.
The bad news is, yes, the U.S. is in for a second wave of COVID-19, which is expected to hit during the upcoming flu season. The good news is the nation is much better prepared for the next wave, the NIH’s Anthony Fauci told a House Energy and Commerce Committee Tuesday.
The May 12 Senate hearing regarding the COVID-19 pandemic included the usual conversations about contact tracing, but Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said he is “cautiously optimistic” that one of the vaccines currently in trial in the U.S. will work, but that it is unlikely a vaccine will be ready by September 2020. In contrast, Assistant Secretary for Health Brett Giroir said testing capacity may reach 50 million tests per month by that time, thanks in part to the fact that antigen testing is now part of the FDA’s emergency use authorization mechanism.
In the rush to develop a COVID-19 vaccine, integral parts of the equation are being overlooked in the U.S., according to a whistleblower complaint filed this week by Rick Bright over his removal as director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA). Even if millions of doses of vaccine are ready to go by January, as the NIH’s Anthony Fauci a few weeks ago said could happen, there may not be enough needles and syringes to deliver those doses.
The U.S. FDA reported that it has expanded the emergency use authorization for the Labcorp polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test for SARS-CoV-2 to include the company’s Pixel self-collection kit, a development that may presage a wider testing paradigm that is needed to restore the U.S. economy to normalcy.
The U.S. capacity for SARS-CoV-2 testing is limited by several items, including the swabs used to collect patient specimens, but the supply of reagents has been front and center recently. Despite those concerns, several private test makers said they are quickly ramping up production, including Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc., of Waltham, Mass., which said it has enough supplies of all types on hand to provide 2 million reactions per week, a volume that should increase to 5 million per week in April.
The U.S. effort to deploy diagnostics for the novel coronavirus has been plagued by missteps by the CDC and the FDA from the outset, leading to delays and missed opportunities. The Trump administration declared a national emergency March 13, but concerns remain about how quickly the array of available tests can be conducted and whether there are enough testing supplies to handle the anticipated demand.
U.S. FDA commissioner Stephen Hahn appeared before a congressional panel to discuss the administration’s budget proposal for the agency, but the outbreak of COVID-19 predictably dominated the proceedings.
The Senate passed by a vote of 96-1 the spending bill for the outbreak of the new coronavirus (COVID-19), which will be on President Donald Trump’s desk by week’s end. The bill provides $7.8 billion in new funds to tackle the outbreak and another $490 million in existing funds for telehealth, all with the aim of speeding the response to the pathogen.
The March 4 congressional hearing on the budget for the NIH was peppered with questions about the COVID-19 outbreak, although the general sentiment is that the agency will receive yet another boost in appropriations in fiscal 2021.