Top U.S. Doctors Hope These Treatments Can Bridge The Gap To A Vaccine

At least eight COVID-19 vaccines are in clinical development. Medical officials are hoping treatments could buy us time until one is available.
Posted at 12:11 PM, May 13, 2020

For the U.S. Senate, an opportunity to ask the question on the minds of all Americans: When will we have a vaccine?

U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney: “How likely is it, is it extremely likely that we’re going to get a vaccine in a year or two? Is it more likely than not, or is it a long shot?”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, said, “It’s definitely not a long shot, Sen. Romney.” 

At least eight COVID-19 vaccines are in clinical development. The furthest along is Moderna’s vaccine, still in phase one trials, though the company says phase two will “begin shortly”.

FDA Commissioner Dr. Steven Hahn and Dr. Anthony Fauci say while phase two, which focuses on how well a vaccine works and how safe it is, is coming, specifics as to when and who would be studied are still unknown. 

"I must warn that there's also the possibility of negative consequences with certain vaccines can actually enhance the negative effect of the infection. The big unknown is efficacy. Will it be present or absent? And how durable will it be?" Fauci testified Tuesday to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

And while we wait, medical officials are hoping treatments could buy time. 

Here are the numbers from the FDA: Right now, researchers are looking into 130 clinical trials for potential COVID-19-related drugs and products. Regulators have already given emergency authorization to 120 medical devices, tests and therapies. The most promising include:

Convalescent plasma and hyperimmune globulin. They are both blood treatments that rely on taking antibody-rich blood from those who have recovered COVID-19 to treat patients right now, usually those in serious condition in the hospital. 

"If the issue is that the young individuals who'd be going back to school would like to have some comfort and that there's a treatment, probably the thing that would be closest to utilization then would likely be passive transfer of convalescent serum," Fauci said.

Monoclonal antibodies. Several pharmaceutical companies and universities are looking into monoclonal antibodies, where scientists hand-pick and clone the strongest antibodies in a lab and then give them to a patient. It could help compensate for a lack of convalescent plasma.

Remdesivir. In early May, the FDA granted emergency authorization for the use of remdesivir, an antiviral medication that blocks the proteins the coronavirus needs to replicate. But drugmaker Gilead Sciences says there’s only enough supply in the world for some 200,000 patients.

"This has to be an evidence-based approach, getting the medical therapeutics, vaccines, remdesivir, whichever it happens to be, the people in need," FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn said. 

Devices. Dozens of devices, from ventilators to ECMO, a blood purification technology, to treat the deadly overload immune response that comes with the most severe cases, have also gained approval. But like many of the other treatments, the focus here is on the most severe patients.