Russian claims about COVID-19 vaccine met with U.S. skepticism

This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. Also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus causes COVID-19. The sample was isolated from a patient in the U.S. (NIAID-RML)

An announcement from Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin that his country has developed a successful coronavirus vaccine is being met with skepticism by U.S. Health and Human Services Sec. Alex Azar. Speaking with ABC’s “Good Morning America” from Taiwan, Azar said the point is to be effective, not first.

“The point is to have a vaccine that is safe and effective for the American people and the people of the world,” he said. “We need transparent data and it’s got to be phase three data that shows a vaccine is safe and effective.”

The former Eli Lilly executive explained that “phase three” is the final stage of clinical trials, which can prove safety and efficacy. He said the U.S. is developing six vaccines and that two of those vaccines are in phase three.

He said there is reason to believe that the U.S. may have a vaccine ready to inoculate people by December.

“We believe that we are on track towards having tens of millions of doses by December of FDA gold standard vaccine and hundreds of millions of doses as we go into the new year,” said Azar. When asked by the show’s host if he could defend that timeline, Azar said Dr. Anthony Fauci believes it is a credible timeline and is a true possibility.

He credited Pres. Trump’s “Operation–Warp Speed” for the expedited process.

Lilly is working on a possible therapeutic drug to help fight the virus. That trial is also in phase three.

Azar is in Taiwan to study their efforts to combat the virus, which he acknowledges is somewhat out of step with what would be acceptable in the U.S.

“They, for instance, have quarantined all individuals coming into Taiwan, mandatory quarantine periods under force of law, with police checking and inspecting individuals for compliance,” he said. “They have also used social media and cell phone mandatory GPS tracking to identify contacts of those individuals.”

He said 200,000 people have been placed into mandatory quarantine.

Azar said he believes the U.S. could learn from Taiwan’s transparency about the virus, which he said stands in contrast to mainland China’s refusal to be forthcoming.

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