Coronavirus vaccine: Trump's 'Operation Warp Speed' aims to make 300m doses by January

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The programme would coordinate and streamline the efforts of pharmaceutical companies, federal agencies, and the US military

World | The Independent

In an unprecedented move, the Trump administration is attempting fast-track the development and production of a vaccine for the coronavirus that would give the US the ability to inoculate 300m people by January 2021.

The administration is calling the Manhattan Project-style vaccination programme "Operation Warp Speed," Bloomberg News reported, and is hoping to cut the time before rolling out an effective vaccine to the masses by as many as eight months.

The programme, which has not been officially announced, would coordinate and streamline the efforts of dozens of pharmaceutical companies, the US departments of Defence and Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Food and Drug Administration. It would divert the monetary risk of failed vaccine prototypes from drug companies to taxpayers, and is likely to cost billions of dollars, Bloomberg reported.

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Many of the president's top health advisers, including White House infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci, warned Americans on national television in March numerous times not to expect a vaccine for at least 12 to 18 months. Mr Fauci even that month corrected the president during a televised meeting with pharmaceutical sector executives when Mr Trump repeatedly suggested a vaccine could be deployed in just a few months.

But "Operation Warp Speed" seeks to streamline the typically slow process of developing a vaccine by using federal money to coordinate clinical trials of the best prospective products from the various drug companies.

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The programme will likely lead to substantial waste as the price for expediency: To get a head start on manufacturing a viable vaccine en masse, the government could fund mass production of a handful of vaccine prototypes before it is known for certain whether they are safe or effective, creating stockpiles of useless vaccine doses.

The administration is betting that such waste is a relatively small price to pay in order to speed the mass production process, get the American public inoculated much more quickly, and thus begin shedding many of the social distancing restrictions that have crippled the US economy.

“'Operation Warp Speed' is clearly another extension of President Trump’s bold leadership and unwillingness to accept ‘business as usual’ approaches to addressing the COVID-19 crisis," Michael Caputo, a spokesman for HHS, told The Hill in a statement.

Widespread vaccination will not completely eradicate the coronavirus pandemic, although it should stem the spread of Covid-19. Hundreds of thousands of Americans every year contract the common flu despite many getting vaccinated against it.

Mr Trump ordered HHS Secretary Alex Azar to accelerate the production of a vaccine last month, and plans for "Operation Warp Speed" have materialized over the roughly four weeks since then, Bloomberg reported.

The World Health Organisation reported earlier this month that 70 coronavirus vaccines are in development worldwide, with three candidates have already entered human trials.

  • Coronavirus vaccine: Trump's 'Operation Warp Speed' aims to make 300m doses by January photo


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