The Trump administration’s newly appointed vaccine czar said early clinical data gives him confidence there will be 200 to 300 million doses by the end of the year.
“I have very recently seen early data from a 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,” Dr. Moncef Slaoui said during an event announcing his post at the White House’s Rose Garden on Friday.
Slaoui sits on the board of Moderna, a U.S. company that’s testing a CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus vaccine candidate it developed. The virus causes COVID-19, a potentially deadly disease.
The doctor is leading Operation Warp Speed, a joint agency effort to quicken the development of vaccines to have at least one ready by January 2021.
The Department of Health and Human Services is teaming with the Pentagon to manufacture and distribute vaccines as fast as possible. Other health agencies like the National Institutes of Health are involved.
Government experts evaluated some 100 vaccine candidates and identified 14 they believe have the best chance of succeeding. Teams working on those candidates will receive funding and other support.
Even as clinical trials continue, manufacturing will start.
“It’s risky, it’s expensive, but we will be saving massive amounts of time,” President Donald Trump said at the event. “We will be saving years if we do this properly.”
Slaoui, formerly the chairman of vaccines at GlaxoSmithKline, was described by Health Secretary Alex Azar as “arguably the world’s most experienced and successful vaccine developer.”
During an appearance on Fox Business on Friday, Azar said that “we’re going to place huge multi-hundred million dollar bets” on the vaccines in development “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.”
Slaoui called the operation he now helps lead “extremely challenging” but said the goals are reachable.
Gen. Gustave Perna, commanding general of the U.S. Army Material Command, was appointed to lead the effort on the Department of Defense side. If the vaccine is approved, the Army will help distribute it to Americans.
Perna called it an honor to be part of the team, adding, “It is going to be a herculean task.”
Teams across the world are racing to develop vaccines that can prevent infection by the CCP virus, which emerged in China last year.
Moderna, based in Massachusetts, obtained clearance last week to start a phase two trial on its mRNA-based candidate. Six hundred volunteers will receive the vaccine.
New York-based Pfizer started human trials on four vaccine candidates, which are also based on the messenger RNA platform. The vaccines don’t contain bits of the virus itself but are designed to trigger an immune response that could block infection.
Pennsylvania-based Inovio Pharmaceuticals completed phase one dosing in April and is planning to launch a phase two/phase three trial later this year while initiating additional phase one trials in China and South Korea this summer. Inovio plans to produce one million doses of its investigational DNA vaccine by the end of the year.
Johnson & Johnson, headquartered in New Jersey, is developing three candidates and expects to have up to 800 million doses by early 2021.
The speed of development is unprecedented. Vaccines normally take years to develop.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told lawmakers this week that there are many candidates.
Moderna’s candidate, he said, could produce data from phase three trials by late fall or early winter.