COVID-19 vaccine at least one year away, as death toll rises in Seattle

March 5, 2020

U.S. public health leaders addressed a Senate committee hearing and clarified the country's response to the growing COVID-19 outbreak that is now seeded in multiple communities.

"It will take at least a year to a year and a half to have a vaccine we can use," said National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) director Anthony Fauci, MD. Though work on a novel coronavirus vaccine has been some of the fastest on record, Fauci said, he explained to senators that a vaccine candidate must be proven safe and efficacious in a multi-step trial process.

Senators also asked questions of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Principal Deputy Director Anne Schuchat, MD, about CDC testing, and lawmakers were told several times throughout the hearing that public health labs would see a major increase in testing capacity by the end of the week.

Fauci also said the United States was "pretty close" to a COVID-19 blood test that could quickly and easily be used in clinics and hospitals.

In addition, Nancy Messonnier, MD, director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said that there were 60 cases of COVID-19 in Americans who contracted the virus while traveling (22 cases), through close case contact (11 cases), or within the community (27 cases).

There are also 48 cases in repatriated Americans, who contracted the virus in Wuhan or aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship. Also, both Georgia and North Carolina reported their first infections. This raises the number of states affected to 14.

Messonnier said the CDC will now be updating COVID-19 case counts on its website daily at noon Eastern Time but added that states performing their own tests may confirm cases faster than the CDC.

Messonnier said the communities experiencing infections will offer the best guidance to citizens, which may include social distancing and self-isolation. She said people over the age of 65 and those with underlying health problems will want to think about how to reduce their exposure to the virus.

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