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Trump: American ‘genius’ will unleash coronavirus vaccine in ‘record time’

President Trump said Monday his administration is “unleashing America’s scientific genius” to land a coronavirus vaccine that could return life to normal months from now.

Mr. Trump hailed the launch of a massive human trial of a vaccine developed by Moderna, Inc., with the National Institutes of Health and efforts by Fujifilm Biotechnologies, a lab in North Carolina that is working on elements of a vaccine candidate from Novavax.

A vaccine is considered the most crucial weapon in the fight against the coronavirus, which has disrupted everyday life and economic activity since March.

Mr. Trump, who is eyeing a successful candidate by the end of the year, said the pharmaceutical industry is on pace to deliver a vaccine in “record time.”

“Nothing even close,” Mr. Trump said after a tour of the Fujifilm site in Morrisville, North Carolina. “We’ve shaved years off the time it takes to develop a vaccine.”

Mr. Trump spoke hours after the White House confirmed that National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien had tested positive for the coronavirus.

Mr. O’Brien, the highest-ranking member of the administration known to have tested positive, has “mild symptoms” and is working from a secure location off-site. The White House said there is no reason to believe the adviser exposed Mr. Trump or Vice President Mike Pence to the virus.

Elsewhere, at least 14 members of the Miami Marlins baseball team tested positive, forcing it to remain in Philadelphia and postpone its home opener against the Baltimore Orioles, while raising doubts about Major League’s Baseball’s relaunch. The Phillies postponed a home game against the New York Yankees because the Marlins just used the visitors’ clubhouse.

The Minnesota Vikings, meanwhile, announced that Eric Sugarman — the football team’s head athletic trainer and infection control officer — has tested positive along with members of his family. The team said Mr. Sugarman hadn’t been in recent contact with players and no additional cases have been detected.

The high-profile cases threatened to overshadow Mr. Trump’s trip to North Carolina — a state he won by nearly 4 points in 2016 — to highlight progress on a vaccine.

Battered by claims he fumbled the virus response, Mr. Trump rattled off his administration’s push to build ventilators and replenish the federal stockpile of personal protective equipment, while distributing point-of-care testing machines to nursing homes.

But a vaccine, he said, is the ultimate prize.

“We will defeat the virus, we will have it delivered in record time,” Mr. Trump said.

The president insisted his response has been adequate, complaining that “suppression polls” and “fake news” are making him look bad ahead of his November matchup with former Vice President Joseph R. Biden.

Mr. Pence, meanwhile, jetted to Miami to hold a roundtable on efforts to combat the coronavirus, which is battering Florida and other Sun Belt states, including Texas, Arizona and California.

The University of Miami is one of multiple sites where researchers will be administering a trial vaccine to up to 30,000 adults as part of the phase-3 human trial.

“It’s a historic day, a day when we begin in earnest to work on a vaccine,” Mr. Pence said before thanking trial volunteers. “All of us have a role to play.”

Mr. Trump often points to progress on a number of candidates from leading drugmakers, as states grapple in the meantime with rising infections, hospitalizations and deaths and reimpose a carousel of restrictions on gatherings and bars and restaurants. The administration is doling out billions to support the pharmaceutical endeavor, which would normally take several years.

Food and Drug Commissioner Stephen Hahn on Monday said despite the speed of the effort, regulators “will not cut corners to evaluate a vaccine.”

“We must maintain the confidence of the American people in the scientific process,” he said.

He said the Moderna trial will enroll participants from “from all walks of life and all groups, particularly those typically underrepresented in trials.”

Dr. Hahn expects additional vaccine candidates to enter phase-3 trials “within the next several weeks.”

The nation is experiencing plenty of woe during the wait, with daily coronavirus deaths exceeding 1,000 four times during the past week.

Deaths are considered a “lagging indicator,” so the tally of fatalities tends to surge a few weeks after spikes in reported infections.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said there’s some good news, however: the surge in cases on the front end appeared to be easing.

“If you look at visits to the emergency room for COVID-like illness, they’re at the lowest levels that we’ve seen since the middle of June, here in the state of Florida,” said Mr. DeSantis, a Republican and close ally of the White House. “Admissions to hospitals for COVID patients is at its lowest that it’s been since June. If you look at our test positivity rate, that is slowly but definitely declining.”

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Source: www.washingtontimes.com stories: Politics

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