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Operation Warp Speed’s top doctor says coronavirus vaccine likely won’t be approved until after November

Published on 04/09/20 at 12:22pm
U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Areca T. Wilson

Dr Moncef Slaoui, the leading doctor involved with Operation Warp Speed, has said it is unlikely a vaccine for the US will be ready by November. 

Saloui was interviewed by Mary Louis Kelly on NPR, and said: “There is a very, very low chance that the trials that are running as we speak could read before the end of October, and therefore there could be - if all other conditions required for an emergency use authorization are met and approved. I think it's extremely unlikely but not impossible, and therefore it's the right thing to do to be prepared in case.”

But Slaoui did say that he believes a vaccine will be available by the end of the year, and could possibly vaccinate between 20 and 25 million people. The government wants to vaccinate the elderly and people with underlying conditions first. Slaoui also says that they will have enough vaccine doses to vaccinate the entire population by the middle of 2021. 

This is in contrast with reports from the Centres of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The New York Times reported on Wednesday that the CDC have put out guidance to states to prepare to distribute a vaccine to health workers and high risks groups in the coming weeks, while CDC Director Robert Redfield has asked governors to fast track licenses and permits to make vaccine sites operational by 1 November, two days before the 2020 election. 

Currently, there are three different coronavirus vaccines in Phase 3 trials across the US, where thousands of people are being tested for both safety and efficacy. Vaccines usually are in trial for years, so getting an effective treatment out by mid-2021 will break most norms of vaccine development.

Operation Warp Speed has been likened to the Manhattan Project, America’s secret development of the atom bomb during the Second World War. It is hoping to accelerate the production of a vaccine to be made widely available across the country by the end of the year.

Conor Kavanagh

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