U.S. President Donald Trump announced on Friday two men will lead his administration’s new effort for COVID-19 vaccine development.
Former pharmaceutical executive Moncef Slaoui and Army General Gustave Perna, the commander of United States Army Materiel Command, will lead “Operation Warp Speed,” the new project to accelerate the vaccine development process for COVID-19.
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The new project is a “historic partnership” of federal agencies, Trump told a noon briefing in the White House Rose Garden.
He said experts throughout the government have been evaluating 100 vaccine candidates. Among them, 14 vaccine candidates are showing promise.
Trump said he is hopeful a COVID-19 vaccine can be developed by the end of the year.
“Typically pharmaceutical companies wait to manufacture a vaccine until it has received all the regulatory approvals necessary, and this can delay the vaccine’s availability to the public as much as a year, even more than that,” Trump said.
The federal government will invest in manufacturing all of the top vaccine candidates before they are approved, according to Trump.
“I have very recently seen early data from a clinical trial with a coronavirus vaccine, and this data made me feel even more confident that we’ll be able to deliver a few hundred million doses of vaccine by the end of 2020,” said Slaoui, former chair of the vaccines division at pharmaceutical GlaxoSmithKline, a British multinational pharmaceutical company headquartered in London.
He said that in addition to a vaccine, the new project will also focus on the development of medicines for those COVID-19 infected, as well as improving and “optimizing” diagnostic tests.
The Trump administration has been pushing an aggressive timetable for producing a vaccine against COVID-19. Trump said first actions on a vaccine began on Jan. 11, and “tremendous strides” are being made toward a vaccine since then.
However, experts said that the development, testing and production of a vaccine for the public is still at least 12 to 18 months off, and that anything less would be a medical miracle.
Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said earlier that even if initial safety tests go well, it may take about a year to 18 months before any vaccine could be ready for public use.
Peter Hotez, professor and dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) in Houston, Texas, told Xinhua that vaccine development is not a fast process, and it is not clear whether a vaccine would be ready to use before this current epidemic ends.
As of Friday afternoon, nearly 1.43 million people have been infected with COVID-19 across the United States, with the death toll surpassing 86,300, according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.