‘We’ve never seen everything go perfectly’

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Dr. Richard Bright, former director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, testifies before a House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health hearing to discuss protecting scientific integrity in response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak on Capitol Hill in Washington, May 14, 2020.

Shawn Thew | Pool via Reuters

A coronavirus vaccine won’t be ready for distribution in 12 to 18 months as White House officials have assured the public, ousted federal vaccine scientist Dr. Rick Bright told Congress Thursday.

“A lot of optimism is swirling around a 12-to-18 month timeframe if everything goes perfectly. We’ve never seen everything go perfectly,” Bright told members of the House health subcommittee. “I still think 12 to 18 months is an aggressive schedule and I think it’s going to take longer than that to do so.”

White House advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci and other U.S. health officials have repeatedly said a vaccine could be ready in 12 to 18 months, but Bright said “it doesn’t mean for an FDA-approved vaccine.”

He said there might be data available to attest for a vaccine candidate’s safety by then, but whether or not the vaccine is effective is a separate question.

Bright filed a whistleblower complaint after he was removed last month as director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, which falls under the Department of Health and Human Services, and is a key player in coordinating a federal vaccine plan and overall pandemic preparedness.

Bright also said he was worried that safety issues could get overlooked in the rush to develop a vaccine. President Donald Trump has touted his plan to accelerate development of a vaccine, calling it “Operation Warp Speed.”

“My concern is if we rush too quickly and consider cutting out critical steps, we may not have a full assessment of the safety of that vaccine, so it’s still going to take some times,” Bright said.

Bright’s comments come after Fauci warned senators on Tuesday that, “there’s no guarantee that the vaccine is actually going to be effective.” 

“You can have everything you think that’s in place and you don’t induce the kind of immune response that turns out to be protective and durably protective,” Fauci said of a vaccine. “So one of the big unknowns is, will it be effective? Given the way the body responds to viruses of this type, I’m cautiously optimistic that we will with one of the candidates get an efficacy signal.”

This is breaking news. Check back here for updates.

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