It isn’t often that one hears the word “pandemic” and “inspired” in the same sentence. But the director of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, Dr. Francis Collins, says that, for all the suffering and grief that COVID-19 has wrought around the world, he has at least witnessed an unprecedented level of cooperation between private industry and the alphabet soup of government agencies who are urgently seeking a vaccine for the devastating virus.
“We’ve never had that before. In this case, I guess the global pandemic has inspired us to do things that maybe we should have done before,” said Collins. “I hope we don’t let that crumble when we get through this.”
In a conversation this week with TIME national health correspondent Alice Park (as part of the TIME 100 Talks: Finding Hope), Collins said he shares Fauci’s “cautious optimism” that a vaccine could be available by the end of the year. “The Phase I data…looks really encouraging that these are vaccines that generate strong antibody responses,” he said, referring to the first of what are typically three trials in vaccine development, wherein a small number of people receive a trial treatment.
Collins also addressed concerns that the rapidity of the vaccine production process could compromise the safety of the final product. “The way in which this is going so fast is not about compromising the rigor of those definitive trials that are going to tell you if a vaccine works or it doesn’t,” he said. “It’s about skipping some of those bureaucratic steps and the long delays” between the trial phases.
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