US begins ‘warp speed’ vaccine push as studies ramp up

US begins ‘warp speed’ vaccine push as studies ramp up

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump vowed to use “every plane, truck and soldier” to distribute COVID-19 vaccines he hopes will be ready by year’s end — even as the country’s top scientists gear up for a master experiment to rapidly tell if any really work.

Trump on Friday declared the vaccine program he calls “Operation Warp Speed” will be “unlike anything our country has seen since the Manhattan Project.”

The goal is to have 300 million doses in stock by January, a huge gamble since a vaccine never has been created from scratch so fast — and one that could waste millions if shots chosen for the production line don’t pan out. As the manufacturing side gets into place, the National Institutes of Health is working in parallel to speed the science.

At least four or five possible vaccines “look pretty promising” and one or two will be ready to begin large-scale testing by July with others to follow soon, NIH Director Francis Collins told The Associated Press.

“The big challenge now is to go big and everybody is about ready for that. And we want to be sure that happens in a co-ordinated way,” Collins said.

That year-end goal is a “very bold plan … a stretch goal if there ever was one,” he said in an interview late Thursday.

Worldwide, about a dozen vaccine candidates are in the first stages of testing or poised to begin, small safety studies in people to look for obvious problems and whether the shots rev up the immune system. Among those getting the most attention are one created by the NIH and Moderna Inc., and a different type created by Britain’s Oxford University.

Current tests “are looking pretty good,” Collins said. “But until you put it into the real world and check it out you don’t really know. You can’t skip over that really, really hard part of testing this in thousands and thousands of people.”

For those next-step studies, NIH is working with some of the world’s largest pharmaceutical firms to create a master plan so each potential vaccine is tested the same way, using the same database, instead of each company devising its own methods. That partnership — called ACTIV or Accelerating COVID-19 Therapeutic Interventions and Vaccines — is like an umbrella where vaccine makers can sign on when they’re ready to start enrolling.

Some key questions are how those at highest risk from COVID-19, such as older adults and people with chronic health problems, will respond to the shots.

“If you had a vaccine that only worked for 20-year-olds and didn’t work for 70-year-olds, that would not be a success,” Collins said.

While Collins’ team musters the needed science, Trump on Friday appointed Moncef Slaoui, a former GlaxoSmithKline executive, to lead the broader warp-speed project, along with Army Gen. Gustave Perna, the commander of United States Army Materiel Command.

The project also will work on new treatment and testing options, but vaccines are a priority.

“When a vaccine is ready, the U.S. government will deploy every plane, truck and soldier required to help distribute it to the American people as quickly as possible,” Trump said in a Rose Garden event.

The World Health Organization and global health leaders have made clear that any vaccine must be shared equally between rich and poor countries. Trump said the U.S. would work with other countries, no matter who found a vaccine first.

“We have no ego when it comes to this,” he said. He later added, “the last thing anybody’s looking for is profit.”

Slaoui, a veteran vaccine developer, said the goals are “very credible,” but added, “I also believe they are extremely challenging.”

Some groups are questioning Slaoui’s financial conflicts of interest; he has resigned from Moderna’s board.

In recent weeks, senior White House officials and allies have thrown their support behind “Operation Warp Speed” amid concerns that the economic rebound the president is betting his reelection on will require a reliable vaccine. Still, Trump was insistent that the U.S. would reopen regardless of the success of the effort.

“Vaccine or no vaccine, we’re back,” Trump said, as states begin to reopen despite fears of a second wave of the virus.

Despite all the emphasis on speed, Collins stressed that “no corners are going to be cut” on safety and scientists will be carefully looking for side effects.

But he added: “If we can get this vaccine out there even a day sooner than otherwise we might have, that’s going to matter to somebody.”

___

The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Lauran Neergaard And Zeke Miller, The Associated Press

vaccines

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw updates media on the Covid-19 situation in Edmonton on Friday March 20, 2020. nbsp;Alberta is reporting it's highest daily number of COVID-19 cases, with 364 new infections. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta confirmed 323 COVID-19 cases Tuesday

Central zone active cases at 145

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Maskwacis reporting 37 active cases

Numbers current as of Oct. 19

Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the chief medical officer of health, receive flu shot. Photo via Government of Alberta
COVID-19: One more death in central zone

Ponoka County on province’s watchlist

Photo submitted/ Millet In Bloom
Town of Millet declared Best Blooming Community

The Town of Millet is being recognized for their efforts to meet the challenges of 2020.

Many rural municipalities were concerned about a proposed reduction to their industrial revenues, but Alberta’s Municipal Affairs minister has come up with an alternative solution. (Photo contributed)
Province and rural municipalities agree on a plan to support Alberta’s energy industry

Creating new wells or pipelines would result in a three year ‘tax holiday’

Conservative member of Parliament Pierre Poilievre speaks during a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on October 19, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Liberals say Tory effort to set up COVID-19 committee will be a confidence matter

The Tories were originally proposing an ‘anticorruption’ committee

Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons Tuesday February 4, 2020 in Ottawa. The Alberta government is welcoming news that Ottawa has approved an expansion of the Nova Gas Transmission Ltd. gathering system in Alberta — while condemning federal delays that it says cost this summer’s construction season. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Alberta welcomes federal approval of gas pipeline expansion while criticizing delay

Pipeline division owned by Calgary-based TC Energy Corp. will now be required to restore 3,840 hectares of caribou habitat,

This 2020 electron microscope image made available by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases shows a Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 particle isolated from a patient, in a laboratory in Fort Detrick, Md. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-NIAID/NIH via AP
At least 49 cases of COVID-19 linked to wedding in Calgary: Alberta Health

McMillan says the city of Calgary has recently seen several outbreaks linked to social gatherings

Alberta Premier Jason Kenny and government house leader Jason Nixon chat before the speech from the throne delivered in Edmonton, Alta., on Tuesday, May 21, 2019. Alberta politicians are to return to the legislature Tuesday with a plan to discuss up to 20 new bills — many of which are focused on the province’s economic recovery. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta legislature to resume Tuesday; focus to be on economic recovery

Opposition house leader Heather Sweet said the NDP will focus on holding Premier Jason Kenney

A passer-by walks past a COVID-19 testing clinic in Montreal, Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Canada ‘yet to see’ deaths due to recent COVID surge as cases hit 200,000

Much of the increase in case numbers can be attributed to Ontario and Quebec

robbery
UPDATE: Suspect identified in early morning shooting

Rimbey RCMP had responded to a complaint of an armed robbery at the Bluffton City General Store

Agriculture Minister Devin Dreeshen (Alberta government photo)
Big boost for Alberta college agriculture research

The $2-million agreement to benefit Lethbridge College’s applied research team

Grant and Barbara Howse, in quarantine in Invermere. Mike Turner photo
Denied entry into U.S., Canadian couple still forced to quarantine for 2 weeks

The rules around crossing the U.S. border led to a bizarre situation for an Invermere couple

Employee Sophia Lovink shows off a bag of merchandise in Toronto on Thursday, June 11, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)
Canada gets C-average grade on 2nd year of cannabis legalization

Cannabis Council of Canada releases report card on federal government and legalization

Most Read