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What is project ‘Warp Speed’? US scientist reveals government plan for coronavirus vaccines

Last month, the US government launched ‘Operation Warp Speed’ to fast-track the production of a coronavirus vaccine in America.

Details have thus far been very vague, but a governmental official involved in the project has broken down some of the steps to Science Magazine.

The Trump administration is planning to provide unlimited funding and other resources for the eight vaccines that look best so human trials can begin by July.

No candidates being made in China will be considered. 

They hope to have 100 million doses available by November 2020 and an additional 200 million by January 2021.

Some vaccine and health experts are worried that Operation Warp Speed will lead to competition, rather than joint efforts, among companies studying possible vaccine candidates. 

Operation Warp Speed will provide funding and additional resources for eight vaccine candidates so human trials can begin in July (file image)

All types of vaccines and candidates are being considered except those being made in China, with the hope that 300 million doses will be available by January 2021. Pictured: Medical staff attend to a patient suffering from COVID-19 in the ICU at Scripps Mercy Hospital in Chula Vista, California, May 12

All types of vaccines and candidates are being considered except those being made in China, with the hope that 300 million doses will be available by January 2021. Pictured: Medical staff attend to a patient suffering from COVID-19 in the ICU at Scripps Mercy Hospital in Chula Vista, California, May 12

Currently, there are are 105 coronavirus vaccines in development, according to BioWorld.  

Of those, about eight have begun testing in humans. But the majority of companies producing the jabs have less than adequate funding, staffers and equipment. 

The official, who was authorized to speak to Science on the condition of anonymity, said the idea for Operation Warp Speed came about in early April. 

‘Looking around, it became clear that, without a really heroic effort, none of the existing efforts to produce vaccine was going to lead us to have vaccine to prevent what looks increasingly like a second wave that could sweep come October, November,’ he told Science. 

Members will be split into three teams – development, manufacturing and supply – and will be managed by a so-called ‘core-team.’ 

According to the official, Operation Warp Speed is planning to push funding for eight vaccine candidates, which he declined to name.  

All the candidates will have to be proven safe and available to be manufactured by the hundreds of millions. By July, the team wants all eight to be conducting trials in humans. 

Funding will also be given to animal trials that test the vaccines’ safety and efficacy, as well as to facilities for manufacturing the shots. 

The official says Operation Warp Speed will consider vaccines being made or researched in other countries, but not in China.   

‘We can’t partner with Chinese companies. That’s just not going to happen,’ he told Science.

However, experts are worried that this will lead to competition and, if China does develop a vaccine first, it will not be available in the US.

‘Duplication only leads to infighting and slowing people down,’ Nicole Lurie, the former US assistant secretary for preparedness and response, told Science.

She currently advises the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, a non-profit provide funding for coronavirus vaccine efforts.

‘The US, and others around the world, should be engaged in this competition against the virus, not against one another,’ she said.

And Emilio Emini, a former vaccine developer working with The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, say svaccine candidates need to be considered from every country.

‘You need to have a global portfolio so that you’re not putting all your chips on one part of the roulette table,’ he told Science. 

Dr Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, said he’s worried about the anti-vaccine movement, which often complains that shots are distributed without enough testing.   

‘The White House talks like it’s a manufacturing problem but it’s not,’  he told DailyMail.com in a recent interview.

‘Manufacturing and doing scale-up has problems, but the problem is adequate time to collect information on the safety and efficacy [of the vaccines] and that you cannot accelerate too much.

‘I can’t say when in 2021 or if it’s even going to be in 2021. I think its hard to prescribe it ahead of time.’ 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk