Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Moderna has moved incredibly quickly to begin testing a potential vaccine for the new coronavirus in U.S. patients. The biotech company went from taking the genetic sequence of the new coronavirus to manufacturing its first batch of vials in less than a month.

Reality check: Best-case scenario, a vaccine could be ready for production by next year — but that's assuming the drug proves to be both safe and effective, which is completely unknown right now.

What they're saying: My colleague Dan Primack and I spoke with Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel to understand the timing of this very fluid situation.

  • After this phase 1 trial and a potential phase 2 trial over the summer, Bancel believes the vaccine can begin a phase 3 trial by this fall.
  • A phase 3 trial would enroll at least 3,000 people, and if data shows the vaccine is safe and effective for that sample, the FDA could approve it.
  • Anthony Fauci of the NIH has said it's a possibility there could be a novel coronavirus vaccine in 2021, "and I would agree with that," Bancel said.

Yes, but: There's no data yet. It's a scientific feat to get to this stage so quickly, but that will matter a lot less if the vaccine doesn't work well or if people suffer serious side effects.

  • "We cannot make any mistakes on safety," Bancel said.

The intrigue: Moderna, which uses a complex gene-based technology that changes how cells function, has a lot of experience researching vaccines — it has done some animal testing on a vaccine for a related coronavirus, MERS.

  • But none of Moderna's vaccines have led to federal approvals yet.

The bottom line: The global desire to find something to prevent another COVID-19 pandemic should not kick aside the need for scientific evidence.

Go deeper

Democrats' mail voting pivot

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Democrats spent the early months of the coronavirus pandemic urging their base to vote absentee. But as threats of U.S. Postal Service delays, Team Trump litigation and higher ballot rejection rates become clearer, many are pivoting to promote more in-person voting as well.

Why it matters: Democrats are exponentially more likely to vote by mail than Republicans this year — and if enough mail-in ballots are lost, rejected on a technicality or undercounted, it could change the outcome of the presidential election or other key races.

New interactive tool shows Biden's mail voting danger

Data: SurveyMonkey; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Voters who disapprove of President Trump most strongly are by far the most likely to vote by mail in the presidential election, according to an Axios analysis of exclusive data from SurveyMonkey and Tableau.

Why it matters: The new data shows just how strongly the mail-in vote is likely to favor Joe Biden — with potentially enormous implications in the swing states due to the greater risk of rejection with mail ballots.

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
45 mins ago - Health

Reopening the ACA debate is politically risky for GOP

Data: Kaiser Family Foundation, The Cook Political Report; Notes: Those losing insurance includes 2020 ACA marketplace enrollment and 2019 Medicaid expansion enrollment among newly-eligible enrollees. Close races are those defined as "Toss up" or "Lean R/D"; Table: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The sudden uncertainty surrounding the future of the Affordable Care Act could be an enormous political liability for Republicans in key states come November.

Between the lines: Millions of people in crucial presidential and Senate battlegrounds would lose their health care coverage if the Supreme Court strikes down the law, as the Trump administration is urging it to.

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