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Fauci on COVID-19 vaccine development: 'We have responsibility to the entire planet'

The U.S. government is already working with vaccine manufacturers to make hundreds of millions of doses, the nation's top infectious disease expert said.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's leading infectious disease expert, said Friday the development of a coronavirus vaccine must be for the benefit of all countries, calling it a "responsibility to the entire planet."

That responsibility is "not just to the individual country that’s making the vaccine," he said during a virtual presentation at the COVID-19 Conference.

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Because of this, he continued, the companies that the U.S. government is working with are "already in discussion to start gearing up to make hundreds of millions of doses." Some companies are promising to have a billion doses of a vaccine within a year or so, he added.

There were likely to be several types of vaccines for the virus, which work in different ways.

Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, likened the development of these different vaccines to taking "multiple shots on goal" in hockey. There are "some that you could get off quickly and ramp up quickly, some that have more experience, and some that we know are tried and true."

An mRNA vaccine was one that researchers were able to get off the ground quickly, he said. Moderna, a Cambridge, Massachusetts-based company, started the first clinical trial in the United States with its mRNA-based vaccine in March. This type of vaccine uses genetic material to teach cells how to defend against the coronavirus.

Another type of vaccine, which uses the virus' protein to teach cells to fight it, took longer to develop but was not any less important, he said.

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The COVID-19 Conference brought together experts from around the world to discuss the latest science on the disease that's infected more than 12 million people globally and caused more than 550,000 deaths.

During the same session, Fauci pointed out the challenges of containing the spread of the virus from asymptomatic individuals.

"The situation that we’re facing in the U.S. is significant and serious in that we have community spread in areas where many of these individuals are without symptoms," he said. "That is complicating our task."

Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House Coronavirus Task Force coordinator, who also spoke at Friday's session, noted the importance of finding asymptomatic cases.

"This is something that has been done so extraordinarily well in HIV, where you have to find the asymptomatic individuals to stop community spread," she said. "Same principle in this respiratory disease."

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