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October 1, 2020

Moderna's coronavirus vaccine won't be widely available until spring 2021, CEO says

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    Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel on Wednesday told the Financial Times that the drugmaker's novel coronavirus vaccine candidate will not be widely available to the general public until spring 20201 at the earliest.

    A vaccine approval is coming. Get ready to ask these 8 questions.

    US new coronavirus cases near 7.3M, deaths approach 206K

    Bancel's comments come as U.S. officials as of Thursday morning reported a total of 7,262,600 cases of the novel coronavirus virus since the country's epidemic began—up from 7,219,800 cases reported as of Wednesday morning.

    According to the latest data from The Atlantic's COVID Tracking Project and state health departments, over the past week, U.S. officials have reported an average of 43,000 new coronavirus cases per day, Axios' "Vitals" reports. In 25 states, daily average numbers of newly reported coronavirus cases have increased over the past week. New Mexico saw the largest surge in its average daily number of newly reported cases, at a growth rate of more than 50%, "Vitals" reports.

    According to data from the New York Times, the rates of newly reported coronavirus cases are "staying high" in Puerto Rico, Guam, and 21 states that have had a daily average of at least 15 newly reported cases per 100,000 people over the past week. Those states are Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

    Meanwhile, the rate of newly reported cases over the past seven days is "going down" in South Carolina, which had previously seen elevated case rates.

    Nine states that have had comparatively low case rates are now seeing those rates "going up," according to the Times. Those states are Colorado, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island.

    In the 21 remaining U.S. states and territories, rates of newly reported coronavirus cases are "staying low," according to the Times' analysis.

    U.S. officials as of Thursday morning also reported a total of 206,852 deaths linked to the coronavirus since the country's epidemic began—up from 205,859 deaths reported as of Wednesday morning.

    Moderna CEO says coronavirus vaccine won't be widely available until 2021

    As the coronavirus continues to spread throughout America and deaths linked to the virus continue to rise, researchers are scrambling to develop a vaccine against the virus, with Moderna and other companies already conducting late-stage trials on coronavirus vaccine candidates. President Trump repeatedly has said a novel coronavirus vaccine will be available for widespread distribution across the country by the end of the year, and during Tuesday's presidential candidate debate, Trump said America could have a coronavirus vaccine available within "weeks."

    However, public health experts—including CDC Director Robert Redfield and Moncef Slaoui, who is leading the Trump administration's Operation Warp Speed initiative to develop a coronavirus vaccine— have cast doubt on that timeline. Instead, they've said a coronavirus vaccine candidate may be found to be safe and effective by the end of 2020 and become widely available for public distribution in 2021.

    On Wednesday, Bancel laid out a projected timeline for Moderna's coronavirus vaccine candidate that mostly aligned with those expectations. Bancel told the Financial Times that Moderna will not be ready to seek FDA approval for the general public to access the company's coronavirus vaccine candidate until at least late January 2021. And if the vaccine candidate is to be found to be safe and effective, FDA's approval of the inoculation likely would occur in late March or early April, Bancel said. "I think a late [first quarter], early [second quarter] approval is a reasonable timeline, based on what we know from our vaccine," he added.

    Bancel also told the Financial Times that his company will not seek an emergency use authorization from FDA for frontline medical workers and other at-risk individuals to access the company's vaccine candidate until Nov. 25, at the earliest. "Nov. 25 is the time we will have enough safety data to be able to put into an emergency use authorization file that we would send to the FDA," Bancel said (Owens, "Vitals," Axios, 10/1; Gandel, CBS News, 9/30; Perez, Forbes, 9/30: New York Times, 10/1).

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