Washington, November 14
US President Donald Trump said his administration had taken unprecedented measures to tackle the coronavirus outbreak in the last nine months, including a public–private partnership to develop, manufacture therapies and vaccines on a nation-wide scale.
Trump spoke to the press for the first time on Friday after media outlets last week had declared Democratic rival, Joe Biden, as the winner of the November 3 elections. The incumbent president focused on the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, expressing optimism on the road ahead.
While Democrat Biden, 77, is projected to win the presidential elections, Trump, 74, has alleged election fraud. Trump is mounting legal fights in a number of battleground states to contest the verdict.
“No medical breakthrough of this scope and magnitude has ever been achieved this rapidly, this quickly, and we’re very proud of it and I had tremendous help from the military, generals, admirals, and many of the great people at the White House,” Trump said from the Rose Garden of the White House on Friday.
He described the process of identifying effective medication and making it available to the people as one of the single greatest mobilisation exercises in US history.
“Operation Warp Speed is unequalled and unrivaled anywhere in the world and the leaders of other countries have called me to congratulate us on what we’ve been able to do and we’ve helped many countries with their (shortage of) ventilators and all of the problems they were having. And I’d like to congratulate everyone involved in this effort. It’s been an incredible effort,” he said.
The Trump administration’s public-private partnership to facilitate and accelerate the development, manufacturing, and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics has been officially termed ‘Operation Warp Speed’.
As a result of ‘Operation Warp Speed’ pharmaceutical company Pfizer on Monday announced that its China Virus vaccine is more than 90 per cent effective, he said. Trump on several occasions has slammed China for allowing the coronavirus to spread to other parts of the world.
“This (Pfizer’s latest vaccine) far exceeds any and all expectations. Nobody thought they’d get to that level,” he said.
In July, the US government reached an agreement with Pfizer to provide USD1.95 billion to support the mass manufacturing and distribution of 100-million doses with the option to purchase a total of 600-million doses shortly thereafter, Trump said.
“Our investment will make it possible for the vaccine to be provided by Pfizer free of charge. Pfizer said it wasn’t part of Warp Speed, but that turned out to be an unfortunate misrepresentation. They are a part. That’s why we gave them that USD1.95 billion, and it was an unfortunate mistake that they made when they said that,” he said.
Trump said his administration will work to secure an ‘Emergency Use Authorisation’ to distribute the vaccine.
The average development timeline for a vaccine, including clinical tests and manufacturing, is 8-12 years.
“Through Operation Warp Speed, we’re doing it in less than one year. If you had a different administration with different people, what we’ve done would have taken, in my opinion, three, four, five years and it would have been in the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) forever,” he said.
This, he asserted, is five times faster than the fastest prior vaccine development in history. Three other vaccines are also in the final stages of trial.
They’ll arrive within a few weeks and they will also be mass produced and the delivery will be very rapid, he said, adding: “We are ready to go.” Stating that the vaccine will be distributed to frontline workers, the elderly, and high-risk Americans at first, Trump said the vaccine will be available to the entire population by April. However, states, like New York, would not get the vaccine in that timeline as the governors have reserved their right to take a call in the matter.
“He (New York State Governor) doesn’t trust where the vaccine is coming from. These are coming from the greatest companies anywhere in the world, greatest labs in the world. But he doesn’t trust the fact that it’s this White House, this administration. So we won’t be delivering it to New York until we have authorisation to do so, and that pains me to say that. This is a very successful, amazing vaccine at 90 per cent (success) and more,” he said.
Observing that the US has one of the lowest case-fatality ratios in the world, Trump said his administration has also made critical investments in therapies that have helped reduce the mortality rate by 85 per cent.
“That’s, to me, one of the most exciting things. It’s incredible some of the antibody vaccines and others that have come out and have really helped people. Last month, the FDA approved Remdesivir (anti-viral medication) and we’ve secured enough remdesivir to treat 850,000 patients,” Trump said.
The administration has finalised as agreement with pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly to purchase the first doses of their antibody therapy, which has shown “amazing results”, Trump said, adding that the treatment will be available free of cost.
Five thousand units have already been shipped and many more are going out, he said.
The US has also reached an agreement with AstraZeneca for large-scale manufacturing of an antibody-based treatment.
The coronavirus has killed 244,302 people with over 10 million confirmed cases in the US so far. PTI LKJ