STAT’s Lev Facher reports the Trump administration on Friday rolled out a hyper-ambitious plan to develop and manufacture hundreds of millions of Covid-19 vaccine doses by the end of 2020, outlining an aggressive process that, if successful, would shatter conventional wisdom about the typical process for developing vaccines for emerging infectious diseases.
At a Rose Garden press conference, the president and his deputies acknowledged their goal, dubbed “Operation Warp Speed,” was lofty. Trump said the project was “risky and expensive.” Gustave Perna, a four-star general who oversees logistics for the U.S. Army, called the task “Herculean.” Moncef Slaoui, the pharmaceutical executive Trump has appointed to lead the initiative, said the goal was “extremely challenging.”
But they allowed themselves little ambiguity. Mark Esper, the defense secretary, pledged to deliver a vaccine “at scale” to the U.S. and its foreign partners by the end of the year.
The rollout highlights an overt shift in the White House’s messaging on vaccines. Anthony Fauci, the federal government’s top infectious disease researcher, has long warned Americans that, even optimistically, developing a Covid-19 vaccine would take between 12 and 18 months. Even that timeline, Fauci has said, would represent something of a biomedical miracle.
The Trump administration’s scientific muscle, however, was notably silent. During his remarks, the president was flanked by three physician-researchers: Fauci; Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator; and Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health.