WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Trump administration is planning to speed up development of a coronavirus vaccine with the goal of having 100 million doses ready by the end of 2020, a senior administration official said on Wednesday.
The official declined to be publicly identified.
Executives and other experts have previously suggested that clinical trials to guarantee a vaccine is safe and effective could take a minimum of 12 to 18 months.
Several agencies within the Department of Health and Human Services announced plans earlier in April to partner with more than 15 drug companies as well as European regulators in an effort to spur development of vaccines and treatments for the disease.
The latest Trump administration efforts to speed vaccine development were originally reported by Bloomberg News, citing people familiar with the matter.
Called “Operation Warp Speed,” the project will join private pharmaceutical companies with government agencies and the military in trying to cut the development time for a vaccine by as much as eight months, Bloomberg News said https://bloom.bg/2YgpC1j.
It said a White House meeting on the project was scheduled for Wednesday. Last month, President Donald Trump directed Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar to speed development of a vaccine, and administration officials have been meeting on the effort for three to four weeks, the report added.
The administration’s initiative comes a week after HHS said it had replaced Rick Bright as director of a key U.S. agency charged with developing drugs and vaccines for COVID-19.
Bright has said he was ousted as director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, or BARDA, because he resisted the administration’s efforts to push malaria drugs hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine touted by Trump to treat the coronavirus even though their effectiveness has not been demonstrated and there are concerns about heart damage.
Lawyers for Bright, an expert in vaccines and therapeutics who served as an adviser to the World Health Organization, have said he will file a whistleblower’s complaint with two government offices over his removal.
Under Bright’s leadership, BARDA recently announced nearly $1 billion in support of vaccine manufacturing efforts by Moderna and Johnson & Johnson. The agency had a total of $5 billion set aside for vaccine development.
(Reporting by Steve Holland, Additional reporting by Will Dunham; in Washington, Rama Venkat in Bengaluru and Michael Erman in Maplewood, NJ; Editing by Howard Goller and Lincoln Feast.)