By Jairo Mejia
New York/Miami, Jul 15 (efe-epa).- Moderna, one of the pharmaceutical firms seeking to develop a vaccine against the coronavirus, announced Wednesday that it expects to produce 500 million doses for the US and one billion doses per year worldwide, an achievement that would bring a big sigh of relief around the planet, with the increase in new Covid-19 cases showing no signs of slackening.
Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel said Wednesday in a conference call with analysts that the firm is forecasting producing 500 million doses of its new vaccine in the US for the domestic market and one billion doses annually worldwide.
Bancel said that the firm’s priority is to have full capacity available in the US, adding that the company is expecting to give the US government control of the vaccine’s distribution if it ultimately overcomes the phase 3 clinical trials, which are slated to begin July 27.
With more than 700 Covid-19 deaths each day in the US over the past week, it seems that the country is placing all its hopes of getting out of this dire and worsening health crisis on the development of a vaccine.
Florida is consolidating itself as the epicenter of the pandemic in the US, with more than 300,000 confirmed coronavirus cases so far and more than 10,000 new ones each day.
The Florida health department reported Wednesday that the state had exceeded 300,000 coronavirus cases, adding 10,181 new cases in the past 24 hours, along with 112 deaths, amid growing concerns about the spread of the virus and the lack of effective decisionmaking at the state level to halt that spread.
Amid the situation that prevails not only in Florida, but throughout the US, the Donald Trump administration has allocated more than $2.2 billion to support several vaccine candidates with an eye toward immunizing the US population against the virus, including two vaccines that appear to show good results in trials so far: Moderna’s mRNA-1237 and Pfizer’s BNT162.
Both are just about to be subjected to the last phase of clinical trials later this month with a group of some 30,000 volunteers in the hope that, if it can be confirmed that the vaccines are safe and effective, they will receive quick approval from US regulators.
With the apparent good news, Wall Street moved into positive territory during the trading day, as investors hoped that a second wave of the coronavirus would be able to be brought under control and the US would be able to fully and safely reopen its economy before it slips beyond the point of no return and plunges the country into a deep recession, or worse.
On the other hand, the wearing of facemasks appears to be losing the battle as an alternative to limit the spread of the virus, with several Republican governors adamantly refusing to enforce their use by levying fines against violators, despite the increasing number of cases.
Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt announced Wednesday that he had become infected with the virus, but he once again refused to order the obligatory use of facemasks in his state, although infections there are continuing to climb.
States with high numbers of new Covid-19 cases per capita and GOP governors, like Texas and Florida, have fallen in line and ordered the public to wear facemasks, while others such as Georgia and Iowa are continuing to resist imposing that measure.
Meanwhile, the country’s largest supermarket chain, Walmart, announced Wednesday that it will require all customers to wear masks starting next Monday.
Adding more uncertainty to the fight against the coronavirus, Peter Navarro, an important adviser to Trump on trade and economic matters, harshly criticized the top US epidemiologist, Dr. Anthony Fauci, saying he “has been wrong about everything” regarding the pandemic.
The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said in an interview with The Atlantic magazine that such criticism “distracts from what I hope would be the common effort of getting this thing under control, rather than this back-and-forth distraction, which just doesn’t make any sense.”
“I think if you talk to reasonable people in the White House, they realize that was a major mistake on their part, because it doesn’t do anything but reflect poorly on them,” Fauci told the magazine. “And I don’t think that was their intention. I cannot figure out in my wildest dreams why they would want to do that.”
Some commentators recently have detected what they interpret as a White House campaign to discredit Fauci, with the epidemiologist himself saying that he had not been called to brief Trump personally on the pandemic in more than two months.
Nevertheless, White House spokesperson Kayleigh McEnany denied that there was a coordinated strategy within the administration to discredit the work of Fauci, who has called on several occasions for increasingly stringent social distancing and other measures to contain the expanding pandemic even as the president has continued to push states, companies and public institutions to reopen.