President Donald Trump is set to tap a former pharmaceutical executive to lead "Operation Warp Speed," his administration's full-scale effort to produce a coronavirus vaccine by the end of the year, which will then be distributed by the U.S. military.
"You know it's a massive job to give this vaccine," Trump said in an interview with Fox Business' Maria Bartiromo that aired Thursday morning. "Our military is now being mobilized so at the end of the year, we're going to be able to give it to a lot of people very, very rapidly."
"We will have a tremendous force because assuming we get it, then you have to distribute it," Trump added. "And unless you're mobilized and ready, you're not going to be able to do it for a long time. So we're starting now."
The first COVID-19 vaccine doses would be made available to the elderly and most vulnerable.
Operation Warp Speed is a "Manhattan Project-style effort" that involves officials from the Defense Department and the Department of Health and Human Services to produce 300 million vaccine doses by the end of 2020.
Leading health officials, including Dr. Anthony Fauci from the White House coronavirus task force, have said that developing a coronavirus vaccine would take between 12 and 18 months.
Fauci told a Senate committee that the prospects of developing a coronavirus vaccine by the fall are unlikely.
"The idea of having treatments available or a vaccine to facilitate reentry of students into the fall term would be something that would be a bit of a bridge too far, even at the top speed we're going," Fauci said.
Vaccines typically take years to develop, sometimes even decades.
There are currently more than 100 coronavirus vaccines under development. Scientists at Oxford University say they are confident that a COVID-19 vaccine will be widely available by September. Researchers are testing the vaccine on humans and expect to conduct over 6,000 tests by the end of May.
Trump is expected to tap Moncef Slaoui, a former executive at GlaxoSmithKline, to lead Operation Warp Speed, according to Politico. Slaoui, who was previously the head of GlaxoSmithKline's vaccine division, will serve in a volunteer role as Trump administration's "therapeutics czar" or "vaccine czar" in the fight against the novel coronavirus.
Slaoui will be assisted by Army Gen. Gustave Perna, a logistics expert and commander of United States Army Materiel Command. Slaoui sits on the board of Moderna, which is a biotech company based in Massachusetts that is working on a coronavirus vaccine.
Last month, GlaxoSmithKline teamed up with French drug giant Sanofi to develop a coronavirus vaccine. Trials have not started yet, and they expect a possible vaccine by the second half of 2021.