Dr. Anthony Fauci talks COVID-19 vaccine timeline: Could one impact football season?

Jason Owens
·3 min read

Dr. Anthony Fauci provided the latest update on a COVID-19 vaccine on Monday.

It’s a mixed bag for the prospects of a football season.

The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said in a Facebook Live conversation that he expects a vaccine candidate to arrive for a Phase 3 trial in July with others following in ensuing months.

“If things go the way it looks like they’re going, one of these candidates will enter Phase 3 trial for efficacy at the end of July,” Fauci said, per CNN’s Ryan Struyk. “Other candidates will sequentially come in, another one at the end of August, one in September and one in October.”

So what exactly does that mean?

A vaccine won’t arrive in time for regularly scheduled fall football. But it could provide some good news for proponents calling for moving the college football season to the spring.

Hope for answer ‘by end of this year’

“We hope that by end of this year, or the beginning of 2021 we will at least have an answer whether the vaccine or vaccines — plural — are safe and effective,” Fauci said, per NBC News.

Phase 3 is the final trial stage for the vaccine candidates. According to NBC, the trials will be conducted with 30,000 people in places of high levels of coronavirus transmission. Half of the subjects will be given the vaccine and the other half will not.

Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Monday that multiple vaccine candidates are approaching their final trial stages. (Al Drago/Pool via AP)
Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Monday that multiple vaccine candidates are approaching their final trial stages. (Al Drago/Pool via AP)

Fauci downplays mutation concerns

Fauci also provided some optimism on the nature of the virus when prompted by Dr. Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health. He’s not impressed with the virus’ ability to mutate, which can alter how it transmits, its ability to impact its host and its susceptibility to vaccines.

"It’s an RNA virus and as we know, RNA viruses mutate,” Fauci said. “But the functional consequence of that mutation so far doesn’t look to be impressive.”

He also said that what level of protection a vaccine will provide is unclear — and that people may require boosters to maintain its efficacy.

“We’re going to assume that there’s a degree of protection, but we have to assume that it’s going to be finite protection,” Fauci said.

Spring college football?

The bottom line for football is that a vaccine won’t arrive in the fall, per Fauci’s estimate. But that much has been expected. The NFL has remained on message about its intent to move forward with its season as scheduled one way or another.

College football is a different story. With multiple governing bodies overseeing the sport, there is more talk of the pandemic’s threat to a fall season and discussion of moving the season to the spring. Fauci’s update provides some optimism on that front.

Either way, the trajectory of the pandemic is going to have a bigger say on the reality of a football season than any plans made by leagues months in advance.

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