The Donald Trump administrations health experts leading the coronavirus response cautioned that a vaccine wont be ready for widespread use for at least a year and warned that the virus may last more than just a season and return next year which makes vaccine development a top priority.
At a special briefing on Wednesday, Trump was surrounded by his administration's top health officials as he asked Americans to be prepared for the virus' potential spread.
The first vaccine trials were expected to begin in about two months and it would take a further three months to determine safety and efficacy which means the fastest possible time frame would still be upwards of 6-8 months before a breakthrough, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, Director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said at the White House briefing, with Trump looking on.
Although a year sounds like a long time, officials said this is the "fastest we have ever gone from a synchronous of a virus to a trial".
The US government expects new cases to keep surfacing although officials say the country's aggressive containment strategy has been working.
After the vaccine trials begin in about two months, it would take about "three months to determine if it's safe and energetic which gives us six months to graduate from the trial", according to Fauci.
Phase 1 would involve 45 people and then hundreds or thousands of people to determine efficacy, he said.
Trump's health officials asked Americans to "prepare" and "know what this means for you".
Speaking on the virus, Trump said his move to severely curtail most travel to China a month ago has slowed the spread of the virus to the US although he "had to take a lot of heat for it".
"They even called me racist for doing that. But if I hadn't acted quickly, we would have been in a very different situation today. Lots more people..."
Trump did not rule out further travel restrictions and said US schools and every part of society must be prepared.
"The coronavirus that we're talking about is a respiratory virus. It spread in a similar way to the common cold or to influenza it spread through coughs and sneezes. So, those everyday sensible measures that we tell people to do every year with the flu are important here, covering your cough, staying home when you're sick and washing your hands," said Dr. Anne Schuch of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
More than 81,000 cases of coronavirus, an illness marked by fever and coughing and sometimes shortness of breath or pneumonia, have been detected since the new virus emerged in China late last year.