WASHINGTON, D.C., USA — The CEO of Pfizer said the drug-making company is in a "very advanced stage" of its COVID-19 vaccine trial and believes they should know by the end of October whether their vaccine is safe and effective. But the nation's top infectious disease expert expressed skepticism over that timeline.
The pharmaceutical company has already enrolled 23,000 volunteers in the phase three trial, CEO Albert Bourla said Thursday during a Q&A with the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations, a trade group. The company hopes to get at least 30,000 volunteers enrolled in total.
“We expect by the end of October, we should have enough ... to say whether the product works or not,” Bourla said.
He added that if the data shows it's safe and effective, they would then "submit immediately" to the FDA for approval.
Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN that Pfizer's timeline is "conceivable," but "unlikely." He said that most believe vaccine trials won't have enough data until November or December.
"It is conceivable that you could have it by October, though I don't think that that's likely,” Dr. Fauci said.
Dr. Fauci also defended the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, stating that he doesn't believe politics could influence the FDA's decision to approve a vaccine.
"I think that we can have some confidence and have faith in what the FDA is saying. They're saying very explicitly that they're going to be making the decision based on the scientific data and we hope that's going to be the case," Dr. Fauci explained.
The federal government last week told states to prepare for a coronavirus vaccine to be ready to distribute by Nov. 1. That timeline raised concern among public health experts about an “October surprise" — a vaccine approval driven by political considerations ahead of a presidential election, rather than science.
The Pfizer and Moderna vaccine candidates began Phase 3 testing in late July. AstraZeneca announced Monday its vaccine candidate has entered the final testing stage in the U.S. as well.