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Racing at Warp Speed

September 15, 2020
Weekly Columns

Over the last several months, the coronavirus pandemic has wreaked unprecedented havoc on the world. Indeed, no country has been spared from the ugly wrath inflicted by this mysterious and deadly invisible enemy. In response to this common adversary, the world’s best scientists and researchers, for the first time in decades, are all laser focused on solving the same problem: finding a cure and discovering a vaccine for COVID-19. Amid this race, the United States is rapidly covering ground and running lengths ahead of the rest of the world.

The reason that America remains in the leading position is thanks to Operation Warp Speed (OWS), which was initiated in mid-May by President Donald Trump. This historic undertaking is a partnership between relevant federal agencies – including the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Defense – and the private sector that’s allowing the United States to race toward a safe and effective vaccine in a matter of months instead of years. For reference, while the fastest a vaccine has been discovered and deployed is four years, the vaccine development process usually takes at least 10-15 years.

The accelerated timeline made possible by OWS is due to smart adaptations to the usual process. Notably, OWS allows promising vaccine candidates to undergo clinical trials at the same time as regulatory approval and preparation for mass production. Moreover, OWS has already resulted in the pre-purchase of hundreds of millions of doses. That means that once a vaccine candidate is deemed safe and effective, it can be distributed almost immediately.

While our talented scientists and researchers continue to work around the clock, at least three vaccine candidates have already reached the final stage of testing. If one of those options proves successful, delivery of a vaccine could be just a few months away. This is good news for the American people.

Certainly, to slow the spread of coronavirus and eliminate it altogether, we must support efforts to find treatments, therapeutics and ultimately, a vaccine. Throughout this coronavirus crisis, I am encouraged this has been a top priority for the Trump Administration. But I am also proud that, starting five years ago, Congress saw the value of prioritizing incremental increases for public health readiness and resources. This included yearly increases for the National Institutes of Health, where a public-private partnership was formed this spring to coordinate and prioritize research efforts into the most promising therapeutics and vaccines. Moreover, HHS has invested more than $7 billion into facilitating research and development by leading pharmaceutical companies.

Although the United States has been neither the best nor the worst at dealing with coronavirus, our country is certainly miles ahead of other nations in the quest for a solution. And remember, this is for a solution to a problem that we didn’t create, and which originated in China. While a vaccine won't return life to normal overnight, it will begin to ease the needless pain inflicted on our country, save precious lives and more quickly allow us to rebuild and fully restore our economy to once again be the envy of the world.

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