The Trump administration on Friday launched a new initiative aiming to fast-track the development, manufacturing and delivery of a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of the year.
The program, dubbed Operation Warp Speed, will bring together experts from the federal government, academia and the private sector to develop, manufacture "and distribute a proven coronavirus vaccine as fast as possible," President Donald Trump said at the White House Friday.
The plan streamlines ongoing federal efforts to coordinate vaccine, therapeutic, and countermeasures like biologics or drugs, according to HHS Secretary Alex Azar.
Operation Warp Speed is "unlike anything our country has seen since the Manhattan Project," Trump said.
The administration plans to "gear up" production capacity for the most promising vaccines while they're under development to ensure that the U.S. can produce them as soon as they're approved. The plan will also ensure that there are enough supplies like glass vials or syringes to roll out the vaccine to providers.
"We'll have everything right on hand, ready to go," Trump said.
Public health experts have warned that COVID-19 will continue to wreak havoc without a vaccine or an adequate testing and tracing strategy. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the leading infectious disease expert on the White House's coronavirus task force, has said that developing a vaccine could take 12 to 18 months. But most experts agree that's an aggressive timeline since most vaccines take 10 to 15 years to get to market.
The Trump administration will have its work cut out for it if it wants to get a new vaccine to market by the end of the year. The U.S. has never approved an entirely new vaccine in less than four years, although innovative technologies and an accelerated regulatory process could speed things up.
While it's the administration's goal to approve a COVID-19 vaccine by January 2021, Azar said HHS could allow emergency use to get the vaccine out to the public even if it hasn't finished going through the usual approval process.
Former GlaxoSmithKline vaccine chief Moncef Slaoui will serve as chief advisor for the operation, while General Gus Perna will take on the role of chief operating officer. Perna currently "oversees the global supply chain and installation and material readiness for the U.S. Army," according to HHS.
Congress recently approved nearly $10 billion in funding to support the effort.