Dr. Anthony Fauci, a member of the White House task force, said the Trump administration is ramping up efforts to develop a vaccine for the coronavirus and could have one ready by January.
Fauci, one of the nation’s top infectious disease experts, was asked about a federal government initiative called “Operation Warp Speed” that combines private pharmaceutical companies, government agencies and the military in an effort to reduce the usual development time for a vaccine.
“We want to go quickly, but we want to make sure it’s safe and it’s effective,” Fauci said on NBC’s “Today” show on Thursday. “I think that is doable if things fall in the right place.”
Asked by host Savannah Guthrie whether hundreds of millions of doses could be ready by January, Fauci said that’s a possible timeline.
“But just remember, go back in time,” he said. “I was saying in January and February that it would be a year to 18 months. So January is a year. So it isn’t that much from what I had originally said.”
Fauci said the developmental timeline would be accelerated to come up with a vaccine.
“If so, we’re going to start ramping up production with the companies involved, and you do that at risk,” he said. “In other words, you don’t wait until you get an answer before you start manufacturing. You, at risk, proactively start making it, assuming that it’s gonna work. And if it does, then you can scale up and hopefully get to that timeline.”
The goal of “Operation Warp Speed” is to have 300 million doses of a vaccine ready by January, Bloomberg reported.
President Trump last month directed Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to hasten development of a vaccine and administration officials have been meeting to brainstorm since.
Michael Caputo, a spokesman for HHS, said Trump did not want to accept a timeline of up to 18 months for a vaccine and encouraged the group to push ahead.
The Bloomberg report said to get around the typical slow developmental process government resources will quickly test experimental vaccines in animals before beginning clinical trials on humans.
The most promising vaccines would go into wider trials even as their production would escalate.
The project could run into the billions of dollars, the report said, because of the waste generated by increasing production of a vaccine before knowing it would be safe and successful.
While some may prove ineffective, the stepped up process also means a vaccine could be made available by the end of the year instead of next summer.
At least 70 different coronavirus vaccines are in development around the world, the report said, citing the World Health Organization, but the efforts have so far not been coordinated.