President Donald Trump stood in the Rose Garden at the White House this afternoon touting the truly amazing progress that Operation Warp Speed has made with respect to developing COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics. Launched officially on May 15, 2020, the Trump administration deserves much credit for the successes of Operation Warp Speed.
Recall that the first case of community transmission of the coronavirus was revealed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on February 26. Less than eight months later, Pfizer released initial data from its clinical trial indicating that its novel messenger RNA vaccine was more than 90 percent effective. Vaccine maker Moderna this week disclosed that it had finished accumulating data and expects to release its efficacy results later this month, perhaps as early as next week. “This is five times faster than fastest vaccine development in history,” asserted the president. In fact, no vaccines have ever been made and vetted so quickly. Until now, the development of the mumps vaccine in the 1960s held the record at four years.
The president took swipes at Pfizer for claiming that it was not part of Operation Warp Speed. The company backtracked a bit on Monday when a spokeswoman for Pfizer clarified that the company is part of Operation Warp Speed as a supplier of a potential coronavirus vaccine. In addition, Trump called out New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who had indicated that he was so worried about the safety of any vaccines approved while Trump was still in office that he might delay distribution of them in his state. “The vaccine will be available to the general population with the exception of places like New York State,” said Trump. “Governor Cuomo will have to let us know when he’s ready for it. Otherwise, we can’t be delivering it to a state that won’t be giving it to its people immediately.”
That remark was immediately taken out of context, generating viral tweets and headlines such as “Trump says coronavirus vaccine won’t be delivered to New York” and “Trump: New York will get coronavirus vaccine last because of Cuomo’s comments.”
Trump also noted the role that Operation Warp Speed played in the development and approval of new monoclonal antibody therapeutics by Eli Lilly and Regeneron.
At the White House event, Moncef Slaoui who has been overseeing and directing Operation Warp Speed noted that the six vaccines candidates backed by the program were all in or about to be in Phase 3 clinical trials. Assuming Food and Drug Administration Emergency Use Authorization, Slaoui said, “We plan to have enough vaccine doses available for use in the U.S. population to immunize about 20 million individuals in the month of December and another 25 to 30 million per month on an ongoing basis thereafter.”
As the vaccines are rolled out over the coming months, the president urged “all Americans to remain vigilant, especially as the weather grows colder and it becomes more difficult to go outside and to have outside gatherings.”