President Trump on Friday unveiled a goal of distributing a coronavirus vaccine to the American population by the end of the year as part of an “unprecedented” partnership between the federal government, the private sector and the military.
Dubbed “Operation Warp Speed,” it will involve the federal government manufacturing hundreds of millions of vaccine candidates before they are approved in order to save time. The U.S. military will help distribute the vaccine to the general population.
“It’s risky, it’s expensive, but we’ll be saving massive amounts of time,” Trump said in a Rose Garden press conference, alongside several federal officials, including the FDA commissioner, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, and the director of the National Institute of Health (NIH).
“[O]ur task is so urgent that, under Operation Warp Speed, the federal government will invest in manufacturing all of the top vaccine candidates before they’re approved,” Trump said. “This will eliminate any unnecessary delay and enable us to begin providing Americans with a proven vaccine the day our scientists say, ‘We’re ready. We got it.’”
Once a vaccine is approved, the federal government will use the military to “deploy every plane, truck and soldier required to help distribute it to the American people as quickly as possible,” Trump said.
“With unrivaled speed, unmatched scale, and the unyielding spirit of the American people, our nation will come back stronger and greater than ever,” Trump said.
It was the first White House press conference about Operation Warp Speed, which previously was mentioned in media interviews without many details.
Development on the first vaccine candidate at NIH began Jan. 11, Trump said. The White House is providing about $10 billion to support Operation Warp Speed, which Trump called “a medical research effort without parallel.”
“[It’s] a massive scientific, industrial and logistical endeavor unlike anything our country has seen since the Manhattan Project,” Trump said, referencing the nationwide effort in the 1940s to build the world’s first atomic bomb. “... Nobody has seen anything like we’re doing now, within our country, since the Second World War.
“Its objective is to finish developing and then to manufacture and distribute a proven coronavirus vaccine as fast as possible,” Trump said. “... I think we’re going to be successful in doing it and hopefully by the end of the year.”
Trump added, “We think we’re going to have some very good results coming out very quickly.”
Operation Warp Speed’s chief scientist is Moncef Slaoui, an immunologist who formerly led GlaxoSmithKline's vaccines department. Slaoui expressed optimism.
“I have very recently seen early data from a clinical trial with a coronavirus vaccine,” Slaoui said. “And this data made me feel even more confident that we will be able to deliver a few hundred million doses of vaccine by the end of 2020.”
Meanwhile, biotech company Moderna announced on Monday positive data from the phase one trial of its vaccine candidate. The trial was run in partnership with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which is part of the National Institutes of Health. At day 43 after the first dose – or two weeks following the second dose – participants given the 25 microgram dose had “levels of binding antibodies” that were at the levels of antibodies seen in blood samples from people who have recovered from COVID-19, a press release said.
Moderna now will move to a phase two trial. Phase three trials are scheduled to begin in July, Moderna said.
Photo courtesy: The White House Flickr
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, The Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.