Donald Trump has said he hopes to have a coronavirus vaccine in production by the end of the year, as he launched a new project dubbed “Operation Warp Speed” designed to accelerate the process.
The new project will be led by Moncef Slaoui, the former head of vaccines at the pharmaceuticals company GlaxoSmithKline, the US president said in a Rose Garden press conference on Friday.
Mr Trump said: “What we’d like to do, if we can, is the vaccine. I think we’re going to be successful in doing it and hopefully by the end of the year . . . We hope to be able to do something by the end of the year or shortly thereafter.”
The development of a Covid-19 vaccine has been seen as critical to getting the global economy back on track after lockdowns end. But most scientists have been more pessimistic about the hopes of finding a vaccine in such a short timeframe.
Anthony Fauci, the head of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a member of Mr Trump’s coronavirus task force, has said he expects the hunt to take at least a year to 18 months.
Speaking to Congress on Thursday, Rick Bright, the recently ousted head of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, said he thought Dr Fauci was being too optimistic, warning that rushing a potential inoculation could put people at risk.
Mr Slaoui, however, shared Mr Trump’s more optimistic outlook, saying on Friday: “I have very recently seen early data for clinical trial with a coronavirus vaccine. And these data made me feel even more confident that we will be able to deliver a few hundred million doses of vaccine by the end of 2020.”
Neither Mr Slaoui nor Mr Trump said to which data Mr Slaoui was referring.
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Mr Trump said the US would invest in manufacturing all the top candidates for a vaccine even before any are approved, and that the country would be ramping up supplies of the equipment needed to administer them, such as cold storage, glass vials, needles and syringes.
He added: “When a vaccine is ready, the US government will deploy every plane, truck and soldier required to help distribute [it] to the American people as quickly as possible.”
And in a change of tone for a president who has previously eschewed internationalism, promising instead to put “America first”, Mr Trump vowed to work with foreign partners on the effort, and to share a US-made vaccine if one is approved.
“We have no ego,” he said. “Whoever gets it we think it’s great. We’re going to work with them, they’re going to work with us. Likewise, if we get it we’re going to be working with them.”