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US announces development of coronavirus vaccine, testing kits

Department of Health and Human Services briefing on the coronavirus outbreak, Jan. 28, 2020. (Department of Health and Human Services/Released)
January 28, 2020

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced it is working on a vaccine to combat the rapidly spreading Chinese coronavirus.

HHS Secretary Alex Azar and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Director Dr. Anthony Fauci confirmed in a Tuesday morning press briefing that a vaccine is in development as a “worst-case scenario.”

Fauci said that when China isolated the virus, they posted the virus’ genetic sequences online, which allowed the NIH to target the glycoprotein spike and develop the immunogen for a vaccine.

The NIH vaccine will be entering a phase one trial within the next three months. An additional three months will be required for data collection before advancement to a phase two trial.

The CDC is also quickly developing a coronavirus testing kit that will serve as the blueprint for labs to use nationwide.

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CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases director Dr. Nancy Messonnier said, “We’re working on a plan now so that priority states get these kits as soon as possible. But in the coming weeks we’ll share these tests with domestic and international partners so they can test for the virus themselves.”

Azar attributed “transparency and collaboration” and 21st-century technology for allowing such rapid developments to take place.

Azar also described the coronavirus outbreak as a “major public health issue” but advised U.S. citizens not to worry.

Azar said it is the HHS’s hope that China will allow U.S. medical experts and research to travel to China to collect first-hand data that will help develop the global epistemology on the coronavirus.

The CDC separately released a statement on Tuesday warning U.S. citizens to avoid all non-essential travel to China.

“Sustained person-to-person community spread with this virus is reportedly occurring in China,” the CDC said, adding that thousands of coronavirus cases have been confirmed in China, as well as more than 100 deaths.

There are currently five confirmed cases of coronavirus in the U.S. in individuals who recently returned from Wuhan, China where the virus originated.

“No person-to-person spread has been detected in the United States at this time and this virus is NOT spreading in the community,” the CDC noted.