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Coronavirus Vaccine Remains 12 Months Out, Health Czar Says, Warning of US Outbreak

The coronavirus outbreak will inevitably spread across the U.S., health officials warned.

“We expect we will see community spread in this country,” Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. “It’s not so much a question of if this will happen anymore, but rather more a question of exactly when this will happen and how many people in this country will have severe illness.”

Officially named COVID-19 by the World Health Organization, the coronavirus outbreak seems to be stabilizing in China with fewer new infections recorded, but confirmed cases in South Korea, Iran and Italy have been piling since last week, with a brand-new case diagnosed in Brazil, the first in Latin America. The rising number of infections in a growing number of countries has health officials worried about the next possible wave of outbreaks.

WHO has not yet labeled the new virus a pandemic, which would mean the outbreak is prevalent across the world and affecting exceptionally high portions of the population. The health organization’s officials, however, have raised concerns about that possibility.

On Monday, WHO said all countries should begin preparing now. “We must focus on containment while doing everything we can to prepare for a potential pandemic,” Tedros Adhanom, WHO Director-General, said.

So far, more than 80,000 people have been infected by the virus, and nearly 3,000 killed. Most were located near the outbreak’s epicenter in the Chinese city, Wuhan. In the U.S., the number of cases rose from 34 to 57, as people who tested positive for the virus were flown home from the Diamond cruise ship located off the Japanese port of Yokohama.

The CDC is using a two-fold approach that incorporates work to contain the virus and at the same time implement strategies to lessen the impact on communities, Messonnier said. The measures are “buying us more time to prepare,” she added.

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Wall Street’s jitters continued as the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 879.44 points to 27,081.36 by the end of Tuesday’s trading session. The drop brings the two-day total to 1,900 following Monday’s 1,000-point decline.

Meanwhile, National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow told CNBC’s Kelly Evans on The Exchange that the coronavirus, while a human tragedy, will likely not become an economic tragedy.

“We have contained this. I won’t say [it’s] airtight, but it’s pretty close to airtight,” Kudlow said.

And during a trip to India, President Trump, said the coronavirus is “going to go away,” and has previously said the U.S. has “essentially closed the borders.” However, a CNN report Tuesday noted that while Trump is expressing confidence that the outbreak will not have a huge impact on the global economy, “behind the scenes the President is less calm” and that he has expressed frustration at his administration’s response to the outbreak.

U.S. health officials on Tuesday said human trials for a possible vaccine for the coronavirus could begin in as little as six weeks.

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) is working with biotechnology firm Moderna Inc. to evaluate whether the drugmaker’s batch of experimental vaccine could work to curtail new coronavirus infections. On Monday, Moderna shipped the first batches of the vaccine to NIAID, which expects human trials to begin in April, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Though during his India trip, President Trump said “we’re very close” to developing a vaccine, NIAID’s Dr. Anthony Fauci contradicted him in a CNN appearance Wednesday, emphasizing that a “deployable” solution remains “at least a year to a year and a half” away.

The White House has reportedly asked Congress for $1.25 billion to help fund development and fast-track a vaccine as part of a $2.5 billion effort to address the coronavirus outbreak. About $500 million that was set aside for Ebola preparedness during that disease’s last outbreak is said to be redirected to fight the new virus.