President Trump unveiled the “Operation Warp Speed” team leading the federal effort that he says will accelerate the development of a vaccine for the coronavirus by the end of the year.
“Another essential pillar of our strategy to keep America open is the development of effective treatments and vaccines as quickly as possible,” Trump said in remarks announcing vaccine development from the White House Rose Garden Friday afternoon. “Its objective is to finish developing and then to manufacture and distribute a proven coronavirus vaccine as fast as possible. Again, we’d love to see if we could do it prior to the end of the year. We think we’re going to have some very good results coming out very quickly.”
The president, flanked by several members of his Coronavirus Task Force experts compared the vaccine development project to the Manhattan Project — the World War II effort to develop the first atomic bomb weapon.
“The next stage of this momentous medical initiative — It’s called Operation Warp Speed,” Trump stated. “That means big and it means fast. A massive scientific, industrial, and logistical endeavor, unlike anything our country has seen since the Manhattan Project. Its objective is to finish developing and then to manufacture and distribute a proven coronavirus vaccine as fast as possible.”
The program initiative will combine the work of government agencies, private companies, and the military. It is set to cost $10 billion and would have a goal of producing 300 million doses to administer to Americans by January.
“Operation Warp Speed has brought together all of the experts across the federal government from places like the NIH, CDC, FDA, and many other agencies. This historic partnership will now bring together the full resources of the Department of Health and Human Services with the Department of Defense,” the president stated.
Two leaders were tapped to lead the Operation Warp Speed efforts — Dr. Moncef Slaoui, a former pharmaceutical executive who was chairman at the British pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline until 2017, will lead the effort as the chief scientist and Army Gen. Gustave Perna, the commanding general of the Army’s Material Command will serve as Chief Operating Officer.
Perna called the effort to develop a vaccine by the end of the year a “Herculean task.”
“It will be historic as we execute the mission that’s been given to us,” Perna said. “It is going to be a Herculean task, but the combination of the two main partners — between Health and Human Services and the Department of Defense — their combined strengths, partnered with the other teammates, will ensure our success.”
The president emphasized that the United States would be working with other countries — even China in developing, manufacture and distribute a vaccine quickly and the country to first develop one that is safe will be sharing it with the world.
“We’re working together with many different countries. We have no ego,” Trump said. “Whoever gets it, we think it’s great. We’re going to work with them; they’re going to work with us. Likewise, if we get it, we’re going to be working with them.”
Currently, there are 14 potential vaccine candidates identified as “promising” and that the scientists involved in the effort are “working to narrow that list still further.” According to a senior administration official, six to eight of the 14 vaccines are being tested to make it to subsequent rounds of trials.
However, if a vaccine isn’t ready by the end of the year, Trump said the United States will rebound.
“I just want to make something clear. It’s very important. Vaccine or no vaccine, we’re back. And we’re starting a process,” Trump said. “In many cases, they don’t have vaccines, and a virus or a flu comes, and you fight through it. People sometimes, we don’t know exactly yet, but it looks like they become immune, or at least for a short while, and maybe for life.”
When asked to clarify “vaccine or no vaccine, we’re back,” Trump responded that even if a vaccine isn’t discovered, the coronavirus would disappear on its own without any immunization.
“We think we’re going to have a vaccine in the pretty near future,” he said. “But again, you know, it’s not solely vaccine-based. Other things have never had a vaccine and they go away. So I don’t want people to think that this is all dependent on a vaccine, but a vaccine would be a tremendous thing.”