AURORA, Colo. (KDVR) — The U.S. House of Representatives passed an $8.3 billion bill Wednesday to fight the spread of the coronavirus.
The bill — which includes more than $3 billion to develop a vaccine — now heads to the Senate, which is expected to vote on it quickly.
This comes just days after President Donald Trump and other health officials visited the National Institutes of Health, where a vaccine is currently being developed.
“The president got to hear from the actual bench scientist who, within three days, developed a potential vaccine for the novel coronavirus,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.
The vaccine is now on a fast track. Usually, vaccines take at least two years to develop, test and get government approval. Officials have said the coronavirus vaccine could potentially be available in as soon as a year.
“If you have the genetic material and know what its alphabetical order is, it’s possible that you make a vaccine slightly faster,” said Dr. David Kroll, a professor at the CU Skaggs School of Pharmacy at the Anschutz Medical Campus.
Now the vaccine moves into phase one of its clinical trial. This is where researchers inject the vaccine into up to a few thousand healthy adults.
“What you’re trying to do there is figure out what dose is required to give an immune system response that could fight off or inactivate the virus,” Kroll said. “This is the first time we’re doing this for the coronavirus, so it’s going to take some dose findings…some range findings. We’re going to have to make sure people respond to it in a robust way.”
Kroll said the researchers do not expose healthy adults to the coronavirus. Instead. scientists determine if the people form antibodies and that can prevent the virus from attacking their lungs.
If phase one is successful, researchers will move on to phases two and three.
“That’s where they see how effective the right dose of the vaccine is in helping people recover faster or helping prevent health care workers around them from being infected,” Kroll said.