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Trump’s Operation Warp Speed ​​made ‘the impossible’ possible


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May 15 marks the two-year anniversary of President Donald Trump’s presentation of Operation Warp Speed ​​to the world by announcing that America would have millions of safe and effective vaccines delivered to its people by the end of 2020.

According to the Commonwealth Foundation’s most recent findings, delivering these vaccines in record time has already averted more than 2 million American deaths. Former members of the Presidential Council of Economic Advisers estimated that these vaccines also prevented billions of dollars in lost economic output and millions of jobs.

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U.S. President Donald Trump signs an executive order on vaccine distribution during an Operation Warp Speed ​​vaccine summit at the White House in Washington, U.S., December 8, 2020. REUTERS/Tom Brenner

As a small group of us gathered in the Rose Garden two years ago on a warm, humid spring day, we were rightly confident of our potential success. We had a president who deeply believed in the spirit of innovation and the ingenuity of the American private sector. We also had a secretary, Alex Azar, who had spent a decade in the pharmaceutical industry and knew more about its motivations and risk thresholds than any of his predecessors.

Add to that a four-star general, Gus Perna, whose Army Materiel Command had honed its logistical expertise supporting combat operations in the Middle East for twenty straight years. Finally, we had just recruited two world-renowned experts in vaccine development and manufacturing, respectively Moncef Slaoui and Carlo de Notaristefani. It was an all-star team.

Beyond the members of this small Warp Speed ​​team, however, lurked serious professions of doubt. On the very evening of May 15, 2020, for example, Brian Williams was interviewing Dr. Irwin Redlener, director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University. Referencing President Trump’s statement earlier today, he said, “It’s impossible to do this by the end of the year.” Some may have viewed Dr. Redlener’s comments as mere political rhetoric, but by historical standards his view was well founded.

The best time in history to bring a safe and effective vaccine to market was around four years in the 1960s. This at a time when we were not in the midst of a global pandemic limiting the availability of the equipment, raw materials and labor needed to develop, manufacture and distribute vaccines.

What the Operation Warp Speed ​​program accomplished under the leadership of President Trump and Secretary Azar over the next seven months was extraordinary and unprecedented.

Concretely, he:

  • Supported the expansion of 27 manufacturing facilities ranging from the production of vials to contain the vaccines to the facilities that produced the vaccines and filled the vials;
  • Inaugurated over 100,000 Americans through rigorous clinical trials in record time;
  • Established an electronic distribution network of over 50,000 vaccination sites;
  • Creation of special containers to store and transport vaccines at minus 80 degrees Celsius;
  • Secured over a billion needles and syringes to administer vaccines;
  • Established distribution centers through which millions of vaccines would pass;
  • And secure the dry ice needed to keep vaccines at the required temperatures.

How did we do all this in such a short time? Simply put, we reached out to iconic American private sector companies and engaged them.

Sure, most Americans now recognize the names Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, and Pfizer, but add to that the absolutely heroic efforts of companies like:

  • Corning which developed unbreakable glass bottles;
  • McKesson who created and distributed all of the vaccine administration kits;
  • FedEx and UPS, which delivered vaccines and kits perfectly to tens of thousands of distribution sites;
  • CVS and Walgreen’s who designed and then deployed mobile vaccine caravans to every nursing home nationwide to vaccinate our most vulnerable citizens in the early months of 2021;
  • And Palantir, which has developed the most sophisticated vaccine tracking system ever used in the United States.

Yes, the federal government enabled the success of Operation Warp Speed, but America’s nimble private sector delivered the success to the American people.

The achievements of Operation Warp Speed ​​are a tribute both to a federal government that “stayed in its lane” and to a dexterous private sector that quickly pivoted to develop, manufacture, distribute and administer vaccines. The federal government assumed the financial risks that the pharmaceutical industry would not bear on its own. It also established an unambiguous regulatory framework for granting emergency use authorizations early in the process and used the Defense Production Act to quickly reprioritize the supply chain in favor of those producing. vaccines.

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Finally, it coordinated the roles of private sector partners. The private sector used advanced technologies, capabilities it had invested in for decades, and ingenuity to innovate and deliver new products and services in record time. This is what a successful public-private partnership looks like.

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As we now approach the second anniversary of Operation Warp Speed, I hope the American people will reflect on the fact that no other country in the world has developed, manufactured, distributed, and administered so many safe and effective vaccines so quickly. or skillfully as We did. In April 2021, just fifteen months after the first DNA characterization of the COVID-19 virus, any American wanting a vaccine had access to it.

In this season of political division, we hear constant criticism of both our federal government and our free enterprise system. Operation Warp Speed ​​is an example of how, when properly structured and directed, a partnership between these two can make possible what experts such as Dr. Redlener have claimed would be impossible.

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