President Trump has chosen a former pharmaceutical executive and a four star general to run Operation Warp Speed, an effort to speed up development of a vaccine for COVID-19 and get it to as many Americans as quickly as possible.
"I think we're going to have a vaccine by the end of the year, and I think distribution will take place almost simultaneously because we've geared up the military," President Trump said as he prepared to board Marine One on Thursday afternoon. Experts have said the best case scenario for vaccine development would be 12 to 18 months.
It's not clear exactly what he means by gearing up the military, but Trump could be referencing the addition of General Gustave Perna to the Operation Warp Speed team. Perna is commander of the U.S. Army Materiel Command and, according to two administration officials, will be the chief operating officer of the program.
Former GlaxoSmithKline executive Moncef Slaoui has been named chief adviser to the effort. He held numerous roles at the company over a long career, including chairman of global vaccines. Since his retirement, Slaoui has served on pharmaceutical and health tech company boards, including Moderna, the company whose vaccine Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health has described as promising. Among numerous candidates, that vaccine is the furthest along in development, entering a phase 2 trial.
With Operation Warp Speed, President Trump is trying to push the development of a vaccine sooner than the 12-18 month timeframe. "I hope we're going to have a vaccine, and we're going to fast-track it like you've never seen before, if we come up with a vaccine," Trump said at the end of April when the idea of Operation Warp Speed was first reported.