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'Operation Warp Speed': New Trump admin project aims to develop 100 million vaccine doses by the end of the year

But it could cost taxpayers billions

Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images

The Trump administration is organizing a "Manhattan Project-style effort" to speed the process of developing a COVID-19 vaccine with the goal of having 100 million doses of an approved vaccine by the year's end, Bloomberg News reported Wednesday.

The project is called "Operation Warp Speed," two people familiar with the program told Bloomberg News. They allegedly asked to remain anonymous since the project has not yet been announced publicly.

What are the details?

Under the effort, private pharmaceutical companies will work hand-in-hand with government agencies and the U.S. military to drastically accelerate the timetable for a vaccine. As a result, taxpayers, rather than drug companies, will assume much of the financial risk should vaccine candidates fail.

Leading health officials such as Dr. Anthony Fauci have insisted that developing a vaccine for the novel coronavirus would take between 12 and 18 months.

Here's more from the report:

Vaccine development is typically slow and high risk. The project's goal is to cut out the slow part, the people said. Operation Warp Speed will use government resources to quickly test the world's most promising experimental vaccines in animals, then launch coordinated human clinical trials to winnow down the candidates.

The best prospective vaccines would go into wider trials at the same time mass production ramps up.

The project will cost billions of dollars, one of the people said. And it will almost certainly result in significant waste by making inoculations at scale before knowing if they'll be safe and effective — meaning that vaccines that fail will be useless. But it could mean having doses of vaccine available for the American public by the end of this year, instead of by next summer.

The group is also reportedly discussing utilizing a master protocol to test several vaccines at once, rather than running individual vaccine candidates through separate trials.

What else?

There are currently at least 89 vaccines in development around the world for COVID-19, according to the World Health Organization. Seven of those vaccines have entered the clinical stage of evaluation.

One of them, the Oxford University vaccine, has jumped significantly ahead of the other candidates. The vaccine has been successfully tested in six rhesus macaque monkeys, who remained healthy after four weeks of exposure to the virus.

Now, Oxford researchers are conducting large-scale human testing, aiming to have 6,000 tests completed by the end of May. Researchers say they are confident that the vaccine will be widely available by September.

According to Bloomberg News, it is not yet known which vaccines will be a part of Operation Warp Speed, or whether the Oxford vaccine, in particular, will be included.

One last thing…
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