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NIH director on speed of vaccine development: "I have never seen anything come together this way"

NIH director on finding a vaccine for COVID-19
National Institutes of Health director on coronavirus trials and vaccine development 02:36

Next week, the National Institutes of Health will launch an unprecedented effort to find a COVID-19 vaccine. The director of the NIH, Dr. Francis Collins, plays a critical role in that effort, dubbed "Operation Warp Speed." The operation aims to deliver 300 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine by January 2021.

Collins joined "CBS Evening News" anchor and managing editor Norah O'Donnell to discuss an upcoming phase three trial, potential safety concerns, and when Americans could reasonably expect a vaccine.

Read O'Donnell's interview with Collins below.

O'Donnell: Are we on the brink of something big?

Collins: Next Monday, if all goes well, we expect to see the launch of a Phase Three trial —  that's a trial which is a joint effort with NIH and a company called Moderna. They aim to enroll 30,000 people.
Is the vaccine development ahead of schedule, as the president has said?

I've been at NIH for 27 years. I have never seen anything come together this way, as we have tried to do and are now doing, for the development of vaccines. And the government, by providing additional resources, has also made it possible now to plan manufacturing of vaccine doses even before you know if the vaccine is going to work. 

But I do want to say, Norah, when people hear that Warp Speed term, maybe it makes them a little nervous, like, "Wait a minute, are they being a little bit too casual here about safety?" No, we are not being casual — as far as the safety and the effectiveness, [that] will not be compromised.
And once a vaccine is available, how long will it take to vaccinate every American who wants it?
By the spring, I would think most Americans would have the chance for a vaccination. I hope, by the way, that most Americans will see this as something they want to do. I'm a little worried about some resistance to this. It's also emerging in some of the polls.

Bill Gates told me he's concerned right now, because in his words, the CDC has been muzzled to a dramatic degree, and Dr. Fauci, who you work with, has been limited. Do you agree?

Dr. Fauci doesn't just work with me — I talk to him every night. He is one of the most remarkable scientists in the world and the most significant expert in infectious disease anywhere. There have been some ups and downs. I am happy to see the president now talking about having a good relationship with Dr. Fauci. I hope we will see more of him.

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