The Trump administration expects to have tens of millions of coronavirus vaccine doses by the end of the year, a senior administration official said during a press briefing with reporters on Monday.
“We feel very confident by the year end we will have tens of millions of vaccines to put into American arms,” the official said. “We will begin phase three clinical trials over the next couple of weeks with at least one and probably two [vaccine] candidates.”
The administration’s Operation Warp Speed is a combined effort led by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Defense Department to rapidly oversee the mass manufacture and distribution of a vaccine and therapeutics to treat coronavirus patients by January 2021.
Operation Warp Speed has invested in four vaccine candidates — $456 million in Johnson & Johnson’s candidate vaccine, set to begin phase one trials this summer; $483 million in Moderna’s candidate vaccine, which began phase one trials on March 16; up to $1.2 billion in AstraZeneca’s candidate vaccine developed in conjunction with the University Oxford, for at least three million doses for the United States; and $1.6 billion in Novavax’s vaccine candidate, for 100 million doses of the vaccine as soon as the end of this year.
Operation Warp Speed is also investing in production of syringes, vials, needles, and other equipment.
The official said one silver lining of current outbreaks is that it is allowing tens of thousands of people to participate in clinical trials needed to test the vaccines, some of which are set to enter phase three trials within a few weeks.
“We need 30,000 persons in each of these clinical trials and we need to conduct the clinical trials in areas there are outbreaks. The current outbreaks might help us get a vaccine faster than if we had no outbreaks in the United States right now,” the official said.
“We are very encouraged — though we can’t reveal from where — by the early data, and we’ve gotten recent data just in the last week or so. We’re encouraged by the number of sites we’ve already set up — scores and scores of sites around the country for the first couple of vaccine candidates for their clinical trials,” the official added.
While Operation Warp Speed plans to vaccinate as many people as possible, it is also working on therapeutics, which is expected to be available by much earlier than vaccines.
“We believe we will have new options of saving American lives as soon as the early fall,” the official said.