By Rep. Tom Cole
When we started this year, none of us expected or would have predicted the hardships coming in 2020, most devastatingly due to the global spread of an awful coronavirus that originated in China. The ugly wrath inflicted by this mysterious and deadly invisible enemy has forced leaders from every country on Earth to mitigate the spread as best as they can – a feat clearly managed better by some than others. But regardless of one’s opinions on how the United States has performed on that front, it is worth recognizing the tremendous efforts led by the Trump Administration to do more than just fight the virus but defeat and eliminate it entirely.
Certainly, the best hope we have at saving lives and restoring our way of life is through delivery of treatments, cures and a vaccine for COVID-19. Recognizing the importance of completing such a mission within months instead of years, President Donald Trump set a strategy in motion that the world had never seen before.
Initiated in mid-May, President Trump’s Operation Warp Speed (OWS) established a historic public-private partnership between relevant federal agencies – including the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Defense – and pharmaceutical companies. As a result, over the last several months, OWS has not only supported some of the scientific research taking place but enabled more rapid development and testing of vaccine candidates without skipping any steps or sacrificing safety and regulatory standards.
The accelerated timeline made possible by OWS is due to smart adaptations to the usual process. Notably, OWS has allowed promising vaccine candidates to undergo clinical trials at the same time as regulatory approval and preparation for mass production. Moreover, OWS has led to the pre-purchase of hundreds of millions of doses. That means that once a vaccine candidate is deemed effective and approved for emergency use, it can be distributed almost immediately. 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.
Let’s fast-forward to where we are now. In just the last few weeks, very promising data has been released about the effectiveness of three potential vaccines, including one developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, one by Moderna and another by AstraZeneca. In test trials for Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna, both vaccine candidates have shown to be more than 94% effective and the latest data from AstraZeneca’s vaccine developed by Oxford University reveals up to 90% efficacy, which is outstanding news.
Thanks to OWS, Pfizer/ BioNTech and Moderna already have contracts with the federal government to provide 100 million doses of their vaccines, with the option to purchase even more later. AstraZeneca has a similar contract for 300 million doses. That means that once one or more of these vaccines are approved by the Food and Drug Administration for emergency use, they can immediately start reaching Americans and saving lives.
The fact that the United States is fast approaching delivery of a vaccine within less than a year is certainly a triumphant achievement for the Trump Administration, and the president is right to tout the successful efforts under his watch and his leadership. But more importantly, the fact that a vaccine is within reach is good news for the American people and indeed, the entire world.
Tom Cole is the U.S. Representative for Oklahoma’s 4th Congressional District.