WASHINGTON - President Trump on Friday announced a new public-private partnership to develop a vaccine for the novel coronavirus as part of what's being called “Operation Warp Speed," saying he hopes the vaccines will be produced "quickly" and will even possibly be ready by the end of the year.
“This is an endeavor unlike anything our country has seen since the Manhattan project…no one has seen anything like we’re doing now within our country since the second world war. Incredible,” Trump said in introducing “Operation Warp Speed.”
The event took place at the White House in the Rose Garden. The president was joined by his chief of staff Mark Meadows, senior advisor Jared Kushner, coronavirus task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx and Dr. Anthony Fauci.
“That means big and it means fast,” Trump said of the efforts. “It’s objective is to finish developing and then to manufacture and distribute a proven coronavirus vaccine…prior to the end of the year. I think we’re going to have some very good results coming out very quickly.”
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, and Surgeon General Jerome Adams, as well as other officials from the Food and Drug Administration, National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also participated in the Rose Garden event.
"I want to thank this group for joining us as we announce a historic, groundbreaking initiative in our ongoing effort to rapidly develop and manufacture a coronavirus vaccine," Trump said Friday.
The president said Saturday "will mark 30 days since we released the White House guidelines for a safe and phased opening of America."
"We're going to have an amazing year next year and a great transition into the fourth quarter," Trump said.
The president went on to discuss an "essential pillar" of the re-opening strategy, which he said is the "development of treatments and vaccines as quickly as possible."
"Very quickly," Trump said. "When I say quickly, we’re looking to get it by the end of the year if we can. Maybe before. We’re doing tremendously well."
The effort will be led by Moncef Slaoui, the former head of GlaxoSmithKline's vaccines division, and Army Gen. Gustave Perna. Slaoui will oversee the vaccine development at Operation Warp Speed, while Serna will serve as the chief operating officer overseeing logistics.
The president announced Slauoi and Perna, calling them “two of the most highly-respected and skilled” officials.
The partnership comes as the Trump administration works to quickly ramp up the development and production of a vaccine to prevent the novel coronavirus, but most researchers say any vaccine is still many months away from being ready for widespread use.
The president has been pushing an aggressive timetable for the creation of a vaccine against COVID-19, predicting during a Fox News town hall earlier this month that a vaccine would be available by December.
"I think we'll have a vaccine by the end of the year," Trump said, adding that he was "very confident" in the assessment. "We'll have a vaccine much sooner rather than later."
The president was asked during that town hall whether he was concerned about the potential risks of accelerating a vaccine and human trials, to which he responded: "No, because they're volunteers. They know what they're getting into ... They want to help the process."
The target year-end date for a vaccine is dramatically ahead of previous estimates from both public and private sector experts at the outset of the pandemic, which had said a vaccine could take up to 18 months, if not longer. But, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said earlier this month that it was "doable if things fall in the right place" to have a vaccine by January.
Meanwhile, before the announcement Friday, counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway said that the partnership comes “quickly on the heels of the FDA cutting a ton of red tape and regulations to allow us to already be developing therapeutics and vaccines.”
Conway said that health professionals, the military, the public and private sectors would be “fully engaged in the development of this vaccine at warp speed.”
“Really, the fastest and most broad-reaching project of its kind since the Manhattan Project,” Conway said, referring to the World War II-era research and development undertaking which produced the first nuclear weapons.
“The military will do what it needs to do to help deploy this vaccine once it is ready to be deployed,” Conway said, adding that Americans “should take a great deal of comfort” the partnership.
Conway said that Trump will outline the different developments in vaccine creation and FDA treatments. Conway said that the National Institute of Health has been working on more than “100 private treatments.”
Meanwhile, more than 140 heads of states and health experts -- including South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz -- issued an appeal Thursday calling on all countries to unite behind a “people’s vaccine” against COVID-19, to ensure any effective treatments and vaccines be available globally to anyone who needs them, for free.
At the moment, there are about a dozen vaccine candidates being tested in China, Britain, Germany and the U.S. The World Health Organization (WHO) has estimated it could take about 12 to 18 months for an effective vaccine to be found.
Fox News’ Andrew O’Reilly, John Roberts and The Associated Press contributed to this report.