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Blunt Touts Success of Operation Warp Speed, Talks Vaccine Rollout

December 04, 2020

WASHINGTON - Yesterday, U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (Mo.), Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies, highlighted Operation Warp Speed’s role in accelerating the development and manufacturing of coronavirus vaccines. 

Blunt also urged Congress to reach an agreement on another COVID-19 relief bill to provide much-needed aid to Americans and ensure the federal government has the resources necessary to continue to develop, manufacture, and distribute vaccines.

Following Are Excerpts of Blunt’s Remarks:

“Mr. President, you and I are here today, and we've been meeting today in Washington at really a groundbreaking moment as we continue this battle for our health, for our economy, and against the virus, and what makes this such a critical moment is the developments we've seen in the last 10 days regarding a vaccine. You know, public health experts around the world have agreed, almost from day one, that the way to really find the end of this pandemic, the ultimate weapon, would be a vaccine and a vaccine that worked. And less than a year ago, in January and February of this year, we were hearing that two years would set a record to develop a vaccine, that sometimes a vaccine developed on a new disease like this has taken three and five and even 10 years or more. And here we are less than a year from the discovery of COVID-19 with not just one vaccine, but two vaccines that have already applied for their use permit, both of which have shown effectiveness of more than 90%. And a third vaccine with similar responses about to come to the place that they too can apply for use.

“And these are incredible numbers, hasn't been that many months ago that health care experts were saying if we get a vaccine that was effective 50% of the time or more, that the government should consider accepting that vaccine and making it available to people. But here we are at a 90% effective vaccine…This is the kind of vaccine that's been the most effective among the most effective vaccines we've ever had. Pfizer and Moderna have both come forward and asked for their emergency use authorization. …

“What we can say with certainty is that about 95% of the time it prevents you from getting the disease. And of course, if people are prevented from getting the disease, they can't spread the disease, and that's why a 90% effective vaccine like the measles vaccine was basically 100% effective as long as people were taking it. …

“In our country, Operation Warp Speed accelerated the development of this new vaccine through a fast track process that just could be described really in one word, unprecedented. Normally, vaccines that would take years - researchers have to go out and secure funding, they have to get approvals, they have to study results, step by step, to get to where we are today. Only then would a vaccine be determined safe and effective, and only then does manufacturing began. …

“This all really started with Congress deciding as we put these packages together, the COVID relief packages together, from the very first couple of packages when it came to a cure, we weren’t going to let funding stand in the way…Congress appropriated $18 billion for vaccines and testing, about $12.5 billion of those dollars have gone into the vaccine side. Most of the rest have gone into testing, with some going into therapy. …

“President Trump and [Operation] Warp Speed stepped up and decided they were going to move at a faster pace than ever before, but with more safety than we've had in most vaccine developments in the history of the country. So we decided to support several vaccines that, again, we thought had a better chance of being approved than not. Now, you take some risk in that, because all the vaccines won't be approved, but you take no risk that you're going to support a vaccine that's approved that's not safe. That's not what happened at all. You just put a lot of horses in the race. The dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor University says, "If you're racing to get a vaccine quickly, one way to do that is put as many horses in the race as you can." And that's exactly what we've done.

“We've invested in several potential vaccines, and I think three different paths to a vaccine, which means that all the vaccines that are approved will not be exactly the same and how you have to store them, how you have to transport them, whether you have to have one shot or two to have the full vaccine. And we've signed contracts with six leading candidates already. We've invested $2.5 billion to help develop and purchase 100 million doses of the vaccine being developed by Moderna. That was jointly developed by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the company. We've dedicated $2 billion, in a different pattern to purchase 100 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine. And we've done that with that investment in a way that allows us to shorten the processing time, combining various study phases and clinical trials going on at the same time, and moving forward in a way that also allowed us to be manufacturing vaccines while we were still studying and moving toward final approval by the FDA. …

“In fact, General Perna, the Operation Warp Speed chief operating officer, said the government would begin vaccinations within 24 hours after a vaccine secures FDA approval. …

“I think, roughly, Pfizer will have about 25 million vaccines to distribute almost immediately. Moderna will have about 20 million to distribute almost immediately, and we know that others are standing right behind them. Another thing that Congress asked the Center[s] for Disease Control to do was come up with a recommendation on who the vaccine should be given to. And just this week, the CDC advisory committee made their recommendation to the Center[s] for Disease Control. Either today or sometime soon after today, the CDC, all likelihood, will adopt those recommendations as they had in the past. ….

“Dr. Fauci said that Americans determined to be at the highest risk, health care workers, frontline workers, seniors, those with underlying conditions could be vaccinated by the end of the year. Certainly, if there's a second shot involved, it might be by the end of January. We've got 15% of the whole population vaccinated by the end of January, or sometime in January, and another 35% would have [the] vaccine available to them by sometime in April. …

“It's a critical time, it's an important time, I think we've written two new chapters in the pandemic response, both in testing and in vaccines. Operation Warp Speed has done in months, what typically can take 10 to 15 years, and even in an expedited way can take two to three to five years, given the urgent need to beat this virus. …

“There's no reason we shouldn't be able to find common ground. This is a time when we can make that effort to finish the job. The pandemic is affecting Americans every day. I've talked to a lot of people who have seen greater moments of drug dependency, huge declines in mental health because that support network is gone and the isolation has taken over, or worry about family finances, health, have become a big part of that. Let’s show the people we work for that we're going to be able to continue this job, and let’s praise the great researchers in our country. Others who step forward in incredible ways to do things that just nine months ago nobody thought could possibly be accomplished in the timeframe we're working on right now.”



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