Backed by federal funding, NIH working to develop coronavirus vaccine


WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Maryland reported its first three confirmed cases of coronavirus on Friday.

In the meantime, members of the state’s congressional delegation visited the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to be briefed on the efforts to develop a vaccine and treatment.

Earlier in the day, President Donald Trump signed an $8.3 billion measure to fund efforts to combat the deadly virus. Of that, $2 billion will go toward vaccine research, according to Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Maryland.

Cardin, alongside fellow Sen. Chris Van Hollen and Congressman Jamie Raskin, monitored vaccine development Friday at the NIH’s facility in Bethesda.

“Next week is when they will begin phase one trials,” Van Hollen said Friday. “Phase one trials in Washington state on about 40 people.”

Van Hollen said he was encouraged by the work they observed.

“We’ve got the best scientists and the best researchers in the world at NIH, and that’s one of the reasons I’m always fighting for full funding for NIH,” Raskin added.

Maintaining funding levels for the NIH has been a struggle with the Trump administration in the past, according to Raskin.

“I’m hoping that the coronavirus outbreak will be an opportunity for the administration to rethink some of their skepticism,” he said.

Despite working at a record-breaking pace, top health officials continue to reiterate that an effective vaccine won’t be available for at least a year.

Raskin said he believes President Trump and Congress must be more proactive in preparing for potential future outbreaks.

“We can’t think of these recurring outbreaks like the flu and now the coronavirus as something unexpected that requires an emergency supplemental appropriation every time we should plan for it,” he said.

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