Operation Warp Speed, a Trump administration initiative to produce COVID-19 vaccines as quickly as possible, should be lauded as a successful endeavor in the otherwise poor effort to fight the coronavirus, experts say.
“Without a doubt, Operation Warp Speed is a huge success,” said Tinglong Dai, associate professor of operations management and business analytics at Johns Hopkins University’s Carey Business School. “You may like or hate the Trump administration, but no doubt it’s a huge achievement – an unprecedented achievement.”
Jesse Goodman, the former chief scientist of the US Food and Drug Administration, agreed that the US government deserves the high priority of Operation Warp Speed.
“This is a ray of hope in the pandemic response. I mean the rest was grim,” said Goodman, who is also director of the Center for Access, Safety and Management of Medical Devices at Georgetown University.
During a virtual STAT summit, Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases, praised Operation Warp Speed as “a success – certainly in the vaccines field it was a success”.
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Launched in May, Operation Warp Speed (OWS) is a government-initiated private / public $ 10 billion program that has helped companies develop, manufacture, and distribute 300 million cans of COVID-19 Vaccine is supposed to support. The first cans should be ready by January 2021.
Pfizer, Moderna announce potential vaccines
On Wednesday, pharmaceutical company Pfizer Inc. announced that new test results show its coronavirus vaccine is 95 percent effective, safe, and also protects the elderly, who are most at risk of dying.
Earlier this week, biotech company Moderna Inc. announced similar efficacy of its own vaccine candidate.
Experts agree that Operation Warp Speed played an important role in Moderna’s development of a potential vaccine.
“Without OWS, there would be no Moderna vaccine. Period,” Dai said.
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Allison Winnike, president of the Texas-based Immunization Partnership, an organization that provides advocacy and information about vaccination initiatives, said Moderna has benefited tremendously from Operation Warp Speed, including nearly $ 1 billion in support of vaccine development clinical trials received.
“That really got them to where they are today,” she said.
Operation Warp Speed also signed an agreement with Moderna under which the US government promised to buy 100 million cans once approved.
Operation Warp Speed also created the clinical trial network that helped complete the Moderna trials, Goodman said.
Pfizer’s vaccine development and manufacturing costs were entirely funded by its own funds. However, a contract was signed with Operation Warp Speed that, once approved, would allow the US government to buy about $ 2 billion of its vaccine, or 100 million doses. (Dado Ruvic / Reuters)
The role Operation Warp Speed played in developing the Pfizer vaccine is a little fuzzy. Last week, when the company announced it had developed a vaccine that was more than 90 percent effective, US President Donald Trump said Pfizer had suggested “it wasn’t part of Warp Speed, but it turned out to be unfortunate misrepresentation out. ” “”
Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine development and manufacturing costs were entirely funded. However, a contract was signed with Operation Warp Speed that, once approved, would allow the US government to buy about $ 2 billion of its vaccine, or 100 million doses.
“Pfizer is a very large company with significant cash reserves,” said Goodman. “I’m sure, that [OWS} was helpful. I’m not sure about [whether] Without that it wouldn’t have happened. “”
However, Walter Orenstein, former director of the U.S. Immunization Program and former deputy director of immunization programs at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said Operation Warp Speed played an important role in guaranteeing Pfizer a market for them could begin developing their procedures for distribution.
And that played an important role in taking some of the financial risk off companies like Pfizer, he said.
He agreed that the political initiative is an exception to how the Trump administration has handled the pandemic and that his “personal opinion” is [OWS] helped a lot. “
“I’ve never seen such an effort,” he said. “Never in my life or my career [have I] I’ve seen something happen so quickly. “
“I can’t see so many companies going to great lengths this way without getting substantial support [through] Operation Warp Speed. “
President Donald Trump (center) speaks during a press conference in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House Sept. 18 as General of the Army, Gustave Perna (left), who heads Operation Warp Speed, and Dr. Moncef Slaoui, Chief Advisor Listen to Operation Warp Speed. (Alex Brandon / The Associated Press)
Initiative at anything but warp speed
However, Dai said that even without Operations Warp Speed, companies like Pfizer would already have an incentive to be the first to hit the market.
However, he believes the initiative deserves to stimulate competition with its “seemingly impossible due date”.
“OWS has effectively changed the entire presentation of the vaccine development timeline, prompting vaccine manufacturers to pool all resources to meet the impossible due date,” said Dai.
While Goodman said Operation Warp Speed was certainly a success, he criticized the Trump administration for denying its pandemic and downplaying its seriousness. In fact, OWS was only launched at warp speed, he said.
It took months for the US government to seriously invest in vaccines.
“Can you imagine where we could have been if those billions of additional dollars and investments started in January?” he said.
“I think we could go a lot further if there wasn’t really a desire to simply wish the pandemic away.”
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Winnike said it said Operation Warp Speed had failed to meet its goal of delivering 300 million doses of the vaccine by the beginning of the new year. She said it could dispense at most 20 million doses.
Winnike also criticized the program as secret and not transparent.
“I think one of their biggest missteps was that they kept a secret who was involved in the vaccine candidate selection process and how they made those decisions,” she said.
She said it had “planted a flag or growing distrust of the vaccine development process in the United States”.