- The Washington Times - Friday, May 15, 2020

President Trump said Friday he’s enlisting the full capacity of U.S. government, manufacturing and the military to secure a vaccine for the coronavirus before the end of the year, an incredibly ambitious timeline.

“Maybe before, we’re doing tremendously well,” Mr. Trump said from the White House Rose Garden.

Mr. Trump said his administration is looking at 14 promising vaccine candidates as part of the campaign, dubbed “Operation Warp Speed.”

“That means big and it means fast,” Mr. Trump said, comparing the effort to the Manhattan Project that developed nuclear weapons.

Mr. Trump wants full approval of a vaccine for everyone, not just emergency authorization for a limited group of recipients. He also said the effort will be motivated by public health and not by profit.

Mr. Trump said the National Institutes of Health began looking at a vaccine in mid-January, after receiving the genetic sequence of the virus out of China.

“We were out there trying to develop a vaccine not even knowing what we were up against,” he said.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, a scientist on the coronavirus task force, has repeatedly said the process will likely take 12 to 18 months, meaning the president’s goal is on the very front end of the timeline.

Mr. Trump said his administration will not skip steps in the clinical approval process but will ramp up production capability within the U.S. even before a vaccine candidate is finalized. He also said the U.S. will work with other countries and foreign companies in the pursuit of an antidote to the pathogen that’s infected nearly 5 million worldwide.

“No ego whatsoever,” Mr. Trump said.

The effort involves multiple federal agencies and the Department of Defense, which will play a role in distributing the shots once they’re developed, the president said.

Mr. Trump said Army Gen. Gustave F. Perna will steer the logistics alongside a new vaccine czar, Moncef Slaoui, a former pharmaceutical executive who served as head of vaccines at GlaxoSmithKline.

Mr. Slaoui said early data made him confident they can deliver “a few hundred million doses” of a vaccine by the end of 2020.

“We will do the best we can to do that,” Mr. Slaoui said.

Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper was even more confident.

“We will deliver, we will win this fight,” Mr. Esper said.

Mr. Trump said even if the U.S. doesn’t manage to get a vaccine, his administration will extinguish any clusters of the disease, as he pushes states to reopen.

“It’s the opening of America,” he said. “We’re going to have an amazing year next year, we’re going to have a great fourth quarter.”

The coronavirus has infected 1.4 million people in the U.S., killing nearly 86,000.

As Mr. Trump spoke, the sound of blaring truck horns could be heard in the distance.

The president said he loves truckers and that it was a pro-Trump demonstration, though its organizers told The Washington Post it was a protest against low freight rates.

“This is our distress call to our commander in chief to address the problems we are facing. He has called us heroes — his heroes need his help now,” the organizer said.

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