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Fact Check: Did Fauci Say COVID-19 Vaccines Would Take Five Years to Develop?

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Former President Donald Trump has claimed that Anthony Fauci—the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)—had said a vaccine against COVID-19 would take several years to develop.

The Claim

Trump made the comments in a Fox News interview on Thursday with Laura Ingraham on The Ingraham Angle. According to the former president, Fauci had said COVID-19 vaccines could take three, four or five years to develop.

Trump said: “We got a vaccine in nine months, Laura, and it was supposed to take five years. Fauci said it’s probably never going to happen. I mean, Fauci was saying three years, four years, five years—a lot of people said 12 years. And I got it done in nine months. It’s really a great accomplishment.”

The Facts

Among Fauci’s earliest references to the development timeline for potential vaccines against what was then widely referred to as the “novel coronavirus” came in an article published by biotech industry news website Biocentury on January 22, 2020—soon after the first COVID-19 cases were reported in the United States.

“We likely will be able, unless there are unanticipated roadblocks, to start a Phase I trial in about three months,” Fauci told BioCentury.

He said that the NIAID was partnering with Moderna on an mRNA vaccine against the disease now known as COVID-19.

Fauci said that the fastest a vaccine could be ready for use on an emergency basis was one year, although the process could take up to two years, BioCentury reported.

There is no evidence to suggest, even at this early stage, that Fauci thought a COVID-19 vaccine was never going to be developed.

Later in the year, Fauci suggested a similar timeline during a Senate committee hearing.

“It will take at least a year to a year and a half to have a vaccine we can use,” Fauci said on March 3, 2020.

As the development of COVID-19 vaccines progressed at rapid speed over the course of 2020, Fauci made further predictions about when they might be available.

In August, 2020, he told Reuters that he expected “tens of millions” of doses to be available by early 2021.

By mid-December 2020, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had authorized the BioNTech and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use. The shot was developed, tested and given authorization in record time—less than 10 months.

The Ruling

False

There is no evidence that Fauci said a COVID-19 vaccine would never be developed, or that the process would take three, four or five years as Trump said.

The Liberty Buzz, in partnership with NewsGuard, is dedicated to providing accurate and verifiable vaccine and health information. With NewsGuard’s HealthGuard browser extension, users can verify if a website is a trustworthy source of health information. Visit the The Liberty Buzz VaxFacts website to learn more and to download the HealthGuard browser extension.

Anthony Fauci testifies during a Senate committee hearing on the federal coronavirus response on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C, March 18, 2021. Donald Trump claimed that Fauci said a COVID-19 vaccine could take up to five years to develop.
SUSAN WALSH/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

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