Government, private sector must partner in vaccine development: HHS secretary

The country's testing capabilities have grown in recent weeks, but developing a vaccine has been a slower process

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Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Friday morning that the U.S. needs to combine the power of the federal government along with the private sector to expedite the development of a coronavirus vaccine.

"We've got to use the full power of the U.S. government and the private sector here to compress all those timelines, reduce inefficiency in development and use the power of the U.S. government to ... scale hundreds of millions of doses of vaccine even while we are running the clinical trials to prove they are safe and effective," the Azar told FOX Business' "Varney & Co."

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The government is debating which companies are eligible for "huge, multi-hundred-million-dollar bets," he said. Vaccine production is also expected to take place in the U.S. -- a critical strategy that will help bring the supply chain back into the country so that it is prepared in the case of another pandemic or similar health crisis.

Companies including Moderna and Pfizer are also working on developing a vaccine, although experts warn the process could take years. Pfizer is optimistic about its chances and began human testing of an experimental coronavirus vaccine in the U.S. in May. Pfizer says such a vaccine could be ready for U.S. distribution by the end of the year if proven safe and effective.

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Azar said that Trump said the multiple phases of testing vaccines that drug manufacturers conduct and the time it takes to wait for results before they start commercial-scale production is "not acceptable."

National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins told the Associated Press in a Thursday interview that four or five vaccines "look pretty promising," and one or two will be ready for large-scale testing starting in July.

"Your big challenge now is to go big and everybody is about ready for that. And we want to be sure that happens in a coordinated way," Collins told the outlet.

The U.S. has more than 1.4 million confirmed COVID-19 cases as of Friday.

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FOX Business' Evie Fordham contributed to this report.