WASHINGTON — President Trump on Friday unveiled the full details of his “Operation Warp Speed” effort to develop and distribute a coronavirus vaccine as soon as possible — with hope growing that one may be ready by the end of the year.
In a ceremony in the White House Rose Garden, Trump announced the large public-private partnership which will be led by former pharmaceutical executive Moncef Slaoui and General Gustave Perna, the commander of United States Army Materiel Command.
The operation would not only include an around-the-clock effort to identify a viable vaccine but will also see a huge manufacturing effort to deploy the vaccine as soon as it is ready, Trump said.
“We’re getting ready so that when we get the good word that we have the vaccine, we have the formula, we have what we need, we’re ready to go, as opposed to taking years to gear up,” he said.
“We’re gearing up. It’s risky. It’s expensive, but we’ll be saving massive amounts of time, we’ll be saving years if we do this properly,” the president added.
Experts including coronavirus task force member Dr. Anthony Fauci, who attended the briefing, had previously estimated a viable treatment could take up to 18 months but hopes are growing that a COVID-19 vaccine could be identified by late fall.
Making his White House debut on Friday, the new vaccine czar, Moncef Slaoui, a former chairman of vaccines at GlaxoSmithKline, said he believed millions of treatments could be available in the next six months.
“I have recently seen early data from a clinical trial with a coronavirus vaccine and these data make me feel even more confident that we will be able to deliver a few hundred million doses of vaccine by the end of 2020,” Slaoui said.
Speakers at the Rose Garden ceremony were at times barely audible after truck drivers who have been protesting in Washington D.C. for fair pay for nearly two weeks began blaring their horns for the duration of the event.
Trump, who has been supportive of the nation’s truck drivers throughout his presidency, said it was a “sound of love.”
“That beautiful sound, those are truckers that are with us all the way,” he said, claiming the protests were “in favor of President Trump.”
Despite his all-put push for a vaccine, the president also speculated that the economy could return without one.
“Vaccine or no vaccine, we’re back,” he said, suggesting the country would “fight through it” and that the disease could go away on its own.
“I’ve lost friends. Many of us have lost friends. We read about that and we see that, but it’s a very small percentage, it’s a very, very small percentage. I say it all the time, it’s a tiny percentage,” Trump said later when asked to clarify his remarks.
“The vast majority, many people, don’t even know they have it. They have sniffles or they have a very minor sign, and they recover, not only recover, they probably have immunity,” he continued, saying he believed schools should return in the fall.