What is ‘Operation Warp Speed’?

operation warp speed coronavirus vaccine
Photo via Jernej Furman/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Although the name makes it sound like a campy 1980s science fiction film, Operation Warp Speed is President Donald Trump’s unprecedented plan to fast-track a coronavirus vaccine.

So far, 14 possible vaccines have been identified, with human trials predicted to start in the early summer of 2020. The plan’s goal is to produce 100 million doses of the vaccine by November and 300 million by January.

This plan is set to squeeze the years-long vaccine production and testing process into the space of a few months. The risks associated with experimental vaccines have been pointed out by the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease Dr. Anthony Fauci, who said that there are “a number of things that could go wrong” under the plan. Fauci has urged officials to enforce more extensive testing of possible vaccines.

Fauci has also estimated that the most realistic timeframe for developing a coronavirus vaccine is 12-18 months. The FDA has already approved Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine for stage 2 trials, where it will be tested on animals. 

Operation Warp Speed, in practice, will likely follow this path, according to Bloomberg: Government resources will fund rapid-fire rounds of first and second stage trials to establish which vaccines are likely to be the best contenders. Then, the “best” vaccines will go into larger trials at the same time they are to be mass-produced. This puts several “steps” of the vaccine production which are supposed to happen in sequence into practice at the same time. 

“I’ve been involved in vaccine work for decades. Not every vaccine we went after worked,” Fauci told CNN in May. “If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t protect people … That’s an assumption that it’s going to be safe, that it’s going to be effective and we’re going to be able to do it quickly. I think each of those are not only feasible, but maybe likely. That’s what I mean when I say by January we’ll do it. But I can’t guarantee it.”

Sources: CNN, Bloomberg, The Hill

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