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Covid-19 vaccine tracker, Oct 2: Operation Warp Speed ‘dominated’ by military personnel

Coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine update, October 2: The involvement of Department of Defense in Operation Warp Speed is not a secret. It is mentioned in a fact sheet on the website of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

By: Explained Desk | Pune | October 2, 2020 9:01:27 am
Coronavirus vaccine tracker, Covid vaccine latest news, Operation Warp Speed, What is Operation Warp Speed, Donald Trump, US vaccine, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Explained health, Express explainedPresident Donald Trump arrives to speak at a news conference in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, Friday, Sept. 18, 2020, in Washington, as Army Gen. Gustave Perna, who is leading Operation Warp Speed, watches. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Coronavirus vaccine tracker: Operation Warp Speed, a US government initiative to expedite the development and access of a coronavirus vaccine for its citizens, is being run mainly by military leaders, including four generals, revealed STAT, an American news website that focuses on health-related information.

STAT said it had obtained an organisational chart of Operation Warp Speed that, for the first time, has revealed the key people who are running the initiative. The chart, the website said, shows heavy involvement of the US military in the quest to get an early vaccine.

It said nearly 60 military officials, including at least four generals, were named on the chart, “many of whom have never worked in healthcare or vaccine development”. Only 29 of the 90 ‘leaders’ on the organisational chart did not work for the US Department of Defense.

The involvement of Department of Defense in Operation Warp Speed is not a secret. It is mentioned in a fact sheet on the website of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The fact sheet also mentions General Gustave Perna as the chief operating officer of Operation Warp Speed.

But STAT said the rest of the organisation structure, which showed the extent of military involvement in the initiative, had so far been not put in public domain.

STAT quoted Paul Mango, deputy chief of staff for policy at HHS, as saying that the military’s involvement was to sort out logistical elements in making the vaccine available to everyone, since the health officials had never dealt with such a complex logistical challenge earlier.

On Wednesday, US President Donald Trump had, during his debate with Democratic Presidential nominee Joe Biden, said the US military would involved in distribution of vaccines, and that they would deliver 200,000 vaccines in a day.

Operation Warp Speed was launched in May this year with the objective of making 300 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine available for American citizens starting from January next year. It hopes to achieve this by fast-tracking the development, manufacturing and distribution of the vaccines.

It has already provided about US$ 10 billion in funding to six of the leading vaccine candidates, and, in return, secured supplies of at least 800 million doses of these yet-to-be-developed vaccines.

Moderna says its vaccine would not be ready till March next year

US pharmaceutical company Moderna has said its coronavirus vaccine candidate would not be ready for public use until the spring of next year, which is late March, according to a report in the Financial Times newspaper.

“I think a late first quarter, early second quarter approval is a reasonable timeline, based on what we know from our vaccine,” the newspaper quoted Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel as saying on Wednesday.

Moderna is one of the four vaccine candidates that are currently undergoing phase-3 trials in the United States.

It is also among the six candidates that have been funded by Operation Warp Speed. The spring timeline would put Moderna at the end of the queue of the four candidates expected to be the first with the vaccine, the others being Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson.

Pfizer has the most ambitious timeline right now. The company has said it expected to know how effective its vaccine is likely to be by the end of October, and if the results were satisfactory, it would immediately seek emergency authorisation from the US Food and Drug Administration. AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson are expected to be ready with their vaccines by early next year.

FDA expands safety inquiry into AstraZeneca vaccine: Reuters

The US Food and Drug Administration has decided to dig deeper into the safety record of the AstraZeneca vaccine, whose clinical trials across the globe had to be paused last month following the emergence of a serious disease in one of the trial participants in the UK.

The trials have since resumed at all other places, including in India, but not in the United States which has ordered an investigation into the incident. On Thursday, Reuters reported that the ongoing investigation by the FDA had now been broadened to assess data from earlier trials of similar vaccines developed by the same scientists.

The widened investigation could further delay the timeline of for the vaccine being developed by AstraZeneca, which has been hoping to make it available in the US market by early next year.

AstraZeneca is among the vaccines that are backed by Operation Warp Speed of the United States, which has pumped in US$ 1.2 billion to accelerate its development. In return, the US has secured assured supplies of 300 million doses of this vaccine, whenever it gets ready.

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Hunt for coronavirus vaccine: The story so far

As on October 1:

  • 192 vaccine candidates in pre-clinical or clinical trials
  • 41 of them in clinical trials
  • Ten in final stages, phase-III of human trials
  • At least eight candidate vaccines being developed in India. Two of these have entered phase -II trials after completing phase-I.

The ones most talked about:

* AstraZeneca/Oxford University
* Moderna
* Pfizer/BioNTech
* Johnson & Johnson
* Sanofi/GlaxoSmithKline
* Novavax
* Russian vaccine, developed by Gamaleya Insttiute in Moscow
* Three Chinese vaccines that have been approved for use in China without phase-3 trials being completed. One of them has been given emergency use authorisation in UAE

(Source: WHO Coronavirus vaccine landscape of September 30, 2020)

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