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Dr. Anthony Fauci says large trial on asymptomatic COVID spread could yield answers in about 5 months

States to expand vaccine eligibility as cases rise
States to expand vaccine eligibility amid troubling rise in cases 02:17

Dr. Anthony Fauci says scientists are trying to answer the two most pressing questions for millions of Americans already fully vaccinated against COVID-19: Can they become infected without showing any symptoms, and if so, can they transmit the coronavirus to someone else?

Fauci said at the White House coronavirus briefing Friday that a large trial is under way involving 12,000 college students at more than 20 universities.

"This is a question of extreme importance," he said. "This will help inform science-based decisions about mask use and about social distancing post-vaccination."

Half the students will get the two-dose Moderna shot and the other half will initially serve as a control group, while getting the same vaccine four months later.

All the students will keep an electronic diary, swab their noses daily and provide occasional blood samples. They'll also provide the names of close contacts. Fauci says it may take about five months to get some answers.

The new study comes as the White House is touting a surge of vaccine providers and vaccine supply and is now racing to meet President Biden's new goal of 200 million doses administered in his first 100 days in office. The prior goal of 100 million doses in 100 days was met in mid-March.

Americans can expect to see a "significant" boost to the immunization campaign next week, President Biden's top COVID-19 adviser Jeff Zients announced at the White House briefing, with Johnson & Johnson supplying 11 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine next week.

The White House had previously forecast just 4 million more doses of the Johnson & Johnson's vaccine supplied next week. So far just 4.8 million of the single-shot vaccine doses have been delivered, far short of the 20 million promised by the end of March from the company.

But a U.S. contractor for Johnson & Johnson, Catalent Biologics, recently announced it has secured approval from the Food and Drug Administration to distribute millions of doses they bottled for the pharmaceutical giant in Indiana. Another surge of supply is expected soon, if regulators sign off on another vaccine factory in Maryland producing Johnson & Johnson's vaccine.

"We've done a lot to help [Johnson & Johnson], we're monitoring that very closely, and we anticipate a significant increase at the end of this month which will enable to them to hit at least 20 million doses," said Zients.

Alexander Tin contributed to this report.

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