The United States government plans to stockpile hundreds of millions of doses of vaccines that are under development to combat the novel coronavirus with a goal of having one or more vaccines ready to deploy by the end of the year as part of “Operation Warp Speed”, administration officials said on Friday.
“We think we’re going to have a vaccine in the pretty near future,” President Donald Trump said at a news conference. If there is no vaccine by the end of the year, the problem “will go away at some point … It may flare up … but we’re gonna put out the fire.”
Trump named Moncef Slaoui, former pharmaceuticals executive, and Gustave Perna, a four-star US general, to head the project.
Efforts to develop a vaccine began in January, Trump said during the news conference when asked how a vaccine – which most health experts have said would to take up to 18 months to develop – could be deployed so quickly.
Administration officials are hopeful. “We’ve got over 100 vaccine candidates that have been discovered,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told Fox Business Network.
“What we’re doing now is we’re narrowing those down to the core group that we’re going to place huge multi-hundred-million-dollar bets on and scale massive vaccine domestic production so that we, by the end of the year, we hope, would have one or more safe and effective vaccines and hundreds of millions of doses.”
The disease caused by the coronavirus, COVID-19, has killed nearly 86,000 people in the US as of May 15, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally. There are more than 1,420,000 people infected there.