President Trump has unveiled Operation Warp Speed, an effort by the federal government to scale up COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing and distribution. During his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, Trump stated, “We are delivering life-saving therapies, and will produce a vaccine before the end of the year, or maybe even sooner.”
This week, the CDC has announced that states need to be ready to distribute a vaccine by November 1, two days before the 2020 Presidential election on November 3 of this year. In a letter from the CDC, director Robert Redfield asked state governors to help eliminate any red tape that could hinder distribution of the vaccine. “CDC urgently requests your assistance in expediting applications for these distribution facilities, and, if necessary, asks that you consider waiving requirements that would prevent these facilities from becoming fully operational by Nov. 1, 2020,” the letter reads.
Seniors among priority recipients
The vaccine would first be available to healthcare workers on the front lines and those at high risk, essential workers, and national security employees. Other priority recipients are older Americans, Native Americans, racial and ethnic minorities, and the incarcerated. The two vaccines to be released are most likely from Pfizer and Moderna. The CDC letter defines the two potential vaccines as “Vaccine A” and “Vaccine B”.
Each vaccine would require two doses a few weeks apart, and the vaccines would need to be stored at different subzero temperatures, making administration a bit tricky.
To approve the use of these vaccines so quickly, the FDA would have to issue emergency use authorization, since full clinical Phase 3 trials have not been completed.
Drawbacks and questions
Experts are worried that the vaccine is being rushed and pushed through without clinical trials. There could be dangerous side effects that are unknown.
In addition, the rush could undermine the public’s confidence in the vaccine–already ⅓ of Americans say they will not take a vaccine due to being unsure of its efficacy and side effects.
“It’s good to have a plan out for hospitals and health care systems to prepare” for a potential rollout, said Dr. Taison Bell, a pulmonary and critical care physician at the University of Virginia. But, Dr. Bell maintains, the timeline “is incredibly ambitious and makes me worry that the administration will prioritize this arbitrary deadline rather than maintaining diligence with following the science.”
U.S. not participating in international vaccine effort
Another complicating factor is that the Trump administration is determined that the U.S. will go its own way with developing a vaccine. The U.S. will not participate in a collaborative global initiative of more than 170 countries to develop and distribute a coronavirus vaccine around the world. The initiative is called the COVAX Facility. President Trump does not want to participate due to the fact that the WHO is one of the leaders of the effort.
“The United States will not participate, in part because the White House does not want to work with the WHO, which President Trump has criticized over what he characterized as its ‘China-centric’ response to the pandemic,” the Washington Post reported.
White House spokesman Judd Deere said, “The United States will continue to engage our international partners to ensure we defeat this virus, but we will not be constrained by multilateral organizations influenced by the corrupt World Health Organization and China.”
This is a risky move, as it means that Americans could go without access to proven COVID-19 treatment.
Update on COVID deaths
According to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, the total number of U.S COVID-19 cases is at 6,151,391, and deaths at 186,806.