Dr. Fauci predicts no COVID-19 vaccine until at least January, and warns of a 'whole lot of pain' if US cases continue to surge

  • A vaccine for COVID-19 isn't likely to be available in the US until at least January, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, America's top infectious disease expert.
  • Several vaccines are in late-stage trials, and they could be granted emergency authorization in "January, could be later – we don't know," he told the Journal of the American Medical Association.
  • Dr. Fauci also warned that if new cases continue to surge, "there's gonna be a whole lot of pain in this country with regard to additional cases and hospitalizations, and deaths."
  • Fauci said hospitals in big cities such as New York and Philadelphia were better equipped to deal with rising infections — but that northwestern and the central US could struggle.
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Dr. Anthony Fauci, the US' top infectious-disease expert, said Wednesday that a COVID-19 vaccine isn't likely to be available until January.

He also warned that cases were "going in the wrong direction" — and said that without a big change, "there's gonna be a whole lot of pain in this country with regard to additional cases and hospitalizations, and deaths."

The five companies in the final stages of trials for a vaccine, including Moderna and Pfizer, probably won't have final data ready until December, Fauci said in an interview Wednesday with the Journal of the American Medical Association.

At least two of those five companies would then need to apply for an emergency use authorization from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to move forward with the vaccine, Fauci said.

"Exactly when the EUA will be granted – could be January, could be later – we don't know," he said.

This contrasts with predictions on the other side of the Atlantic: The UK government reportedly hopes Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine will be ready in December, according to a Thursday report in The Times.

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said Tuesday that the vaccine was in the "last mile" of development, but urged "patience."

The US ranks second in the world in new daily cases, a hospitals are struggling to cope with a surge in infections. The country has a weekly average of nearly 69,000 new cases per day — an increase of more than 60% since October 1.

Later Wednesday evening, Fauci told CNBC interview that the US is "going in the wrong direction."

"If things do not change, if they continue on the course we're on, there's gonna be a whole lot of pain in this country with regard to additional cases and hospitalizations, and deaths," he said.

Fauci said larger cities like New York and Philadelphia are better equipped to deal with the pandemic because of their larger hospitals. But northwestern and central America could struggle with the increase in infections, he said. 

"They never had the kind of hospital and intensive care facility and flexibility that some of the larger hospitals in larger cities have," said Fauci. "They're concerned that if the trajectory continues, they may be in a position where they are going to be strapped for things like intensive care beds."

His comments come days after he said during a MSNBC interview that the general public might not get a COVID-19 vaccine until mid-2021.

Fauci said he was "cautiously optimistic" that a vaccine will be deemed safe and effective by the end of November the beginning of December. But added: "If you talk logistically about getting it to the major proportion of the population, that will be obviously several months into 2021."

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