This article was originally published in May 2020.
On Friday, Donald Trump announced his appointment of Moncef Slaoui, a former executive with vaccine manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline, to lead “Operation Warp Speed”, Trump’s plan to fast track the development of vaccines for COVID-19. Slaoui will serve in a volunteer position, assisted by Army Gen. Gustave Perna, the commander of United States Army Materiel Command.
According to the Trump administration, Operation Warp Speed program is focusing on four vaccines, with the hopes of testing and producing 100 million doses by October 2020, 200 million by December, and 300 million doses by January. At Friday’s press conference, Slaoui said he believes the goal of vaccines by January 2021 is a “credible goal”. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper was more adamant, stating that, “winning matters and we will deliver, by the end of this year, a vaccine”.
Operation Warp Speed and the calls for public-private partnerships mimic the National Institutes of Health’s recent call for bringing together pharmaceutical companies to develop a vaccine for COVID-19. The NIH plan, Accelerating COVID-19 Therapeutic Interventions and Vaccines (ACTIV) partnership, emphasizes “a collaborative framework for prioritizing vaccine and drug candidates, streamlining clinical trials, coordinating regulatory processes and/or leveraging assets among all partners to rapidly respond to the COVID-19 and future pandemics.”
The appointment of Slaoui follows previous statements regarding Trump’s desire to have vaccines available to Americans by the fall. “I think we’re going to have a vaccine by the end of the year, and I think distribution will take place almost simultaneously because we’ve geared up the military,” Trump said Thursday afternoon. Trump also told the Fox Business Network that because of the “massive job to give this vaccine” the military is now being mobilized. “We’re going to be able to give it to a lot of people very, very rapidly,” Trump concluded.
At Friday’s press conference Trump said his team has been working 24 hours a day to develop treatments for COVID-19. Despite the heavy focus on vaccines, Trump did state that his administration is working on other treatments, including “therapeutics”. “It’s not solely vaccine based, other things have never had a vaccine and they go away.