The President of the United States of America, Donal Trump, reveals a crash effort aimed at developing a coronavirus vaccine by the end of the year on Friday.
President Trump however emphasized that the country would return to normal with or without a vaccine.
“I just want to make something clear, it’s very important. Vaccine or no vaccine, we’re back” Trump stated during a midday event in the Rose Garden. “And we’re starting a process.”
The formal announcement of “Operation Warp Speed” came as researchers around the world scramble to develop a vaccine for the deadly coronavirus which has resulted to the death of more than 300,000 people globally.
Many opine that an effective vaccine as the only way life can return to normal for people under lockdown or businesses whose operations have been limited. But Trump made clear Friday he does not share that view.
Press Trump insisted that the economy is already rebounding as some states have loosen their rules.
He projects that a vaccine would be available within months but he downplayed the importance it might have in helping Americans return to normal.
“We think we are going to have a vaccine in the pretty near future, and if we do, we are going to really be a big step ahead and if we don’t, we are going to be like so many other cases where you had a problem come in, it’ll go away at some point, it’ll go away,” Trump stated.
Mr. Trump has pushed states to lift the restrictions and hopes for an economic rebound by November’s general election.
He framed the US vaccine project as an effort unprecedented since World War II and repeated his goal of developing a vaccine by year’s end; that being an ambitious timeline that his newly appointed vaccine czar said was attainable, even as other experts have said 12-18 months is a more realistic projection for when a vaccine might be available.
“I believe they are very credible. I also believe they are extremely challenging,” said Moncef Slaoui, the former pharmaceutical executive who is leading the vaccine effort.
Trump named Slaoui, the ex-head of GlaxoSmithKline’s vaccines division, to lead the effort alongside four-star Army General Gustave Perna.
Perna called the effort to develop a vaccine by the end of the year a “Herculean task” on Friday.
Slaoui, who has been a venture capitalist since leaving the pharmaceutical giant in 2017, will act as the chief Chief Adviser to the vaccine effort while Perna will serve as the Chief Operating Officer in charge of the logistics.
Both men supplement the vaccine development efforts already underway by the US government, including at the National Institutes of Health.
While Fauci, a leader at that agency, also attended Friday’s event in the Rose Garden, he did not speak. A top White House Adviser during the coronavirus pandemic, Fauci has recently come under fire by some of Trump’s allies for his caution on reopening the country, which he said would have grave consequences if not done carefully.
Fauci had not appeared alongside the President at the White House since April 29, when he delivered some good news on promising results of remdesivir clinical trials during a meeting in the Oval Office with Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards.
Fauci, like other health experts, has warned that developing a vaccine could take a year at minimum and potentially much longer.
The White House chose Slaoui to lead the “Warp Speed” vaccine project after interviewing four candidates. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, Senior Adviser Jared Kushner, Adviser Adam Boehler, Dr. Deborah Birx, Deputy Secretary of Defense David Norquist, HHS deputy chief of staff Paul Mango and Fauci all participated in the interview process.
The decision to select Slaoui was “unanimous” and apparent to all of the administration panelists during the interview with Slaoui.
Slaoui met with Trump at the White House on Wednesday, the official said, and Trump signed off on his selection after getting the unanimous nod from his team.
Slaoui’s primary mission will be to determine which vaccines to bet on as the administration moves to manufacture more than one vaccine before trials are completed.
Two of the other candidates were Elias Zerhouni and Mark McClellan, the former Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Servicesdirector under President George W. Bush.
Slaoui has held seats on the boards of multiple corporations pursuing a coronavirus vaccine, including Moderna. A person familiar with the matter said Slaoui would vacate his seats upon assuming his role in the vaccine effort.
Scientists who are part of the Trump administration’s coronavirus vaccine project have identified 14 vaccines to focus on for development, according to a senior administration official. Those involved in the effort expect to have six to eight of the vaccines being tested make it to subsequent rounds of trials.
Officials hope to have three to four vaccines make it through final testing and be made available, but that depends on how the testing and clinical trials proceed and how successful they are.
According to CNN, a senior administration official with expertise in the development of vaccines said the government could reach hundreds of millions of doses of a coronavirus vaccine by the end of the year by taking a big financial risk.
In what is called “at-risk” production, the US government’s coronavirus vaccine project is expected to begin production of a vaccine later this summer with the hope that the vaccine will be effective.
The “risk” is financial, the official said. If the doses don’t work but if the vaccine works, then the government has achieved the goal of having those hundreds of millions of doses ready by the end of the year.
This is supposedly an extraordinary endeavor on the part of the government because vaccines are rarely developed in this fashion. The cost to the government, could be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
The HHS division tasked with vaccine development, BARDA, has seen its leadership in flux after the former director Rick Bright was ousted. Bright filed a formal whistleblower complaint alleging his early warnings about