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A group of federal officials, scientists, and drug companies are tasked with the challenge of developing a coronavirus vaccine by the end of the year.
President Donald Trump discussed details of the initiative, called "Operation Warp Speed," during a press briefing Friday afternoon. The team includes leaders from the CDC, FDA, National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Defense.
"Its objective is to finish developing and then to manufacture and distribute a proven coronavirus vaccine as fast as possible," Trump said. "We'd love to see if we can do it prior to the end of the year."
Trump named the two leaders for the operation: Moncef Slaoui, an immunologist who previously ran GlaxoSmithKline's vaccine division, and U.S. Army Gen. Gustave Perna, commander of the Material Command that runs logistics and supply chains.
The NIH began working on a vaccine after the SARS-CoV-2 genetic code was released publicly in January and started the first phase of a clinical trial in March. Scientists across the world have identified about 100 potential vaccine candidates and are focusing on 14 that seem the "most promising," Trump said.
Typically, vaccine development takes years. The FDA and other regulatory agencies have sped up the process in recent months during the hunt for a COVID-19 vaccine. Public health experts have predicted that a coronavirus vaccine could take 12-24 months to produce.
Operation Warp Speed's goal is to reduce that timeline by simultaneously preparing the manufacturing and distribution processes so drug companies can fill vaccine vials once the formula is ready. Under the directive, orders were placed this week for vaccine-related supplies like glass vials, needles and syringes, Alex Azar, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, said.
"I believe [the operation's objectives] are very credible. I also believe they are extremely challenging," Slaoui said during the briefing. "We will do the utmost to deliver on these objectives."
He added that early data from one clinical trial made him "feel even more confident" that a few hundred million doses could be distributed by the end of 2020.
Trump emphasized that the process is collaborative and involves input from other countries. The country that creates a vaccine first will develop and deliver it to others.
"We have no ego when it comes to this," Trump said. "No ego whatsoever."