This week the world reached a grim milestone in the coronavirus pandemic. More than half a million lives have been lost, and more than a quarter of coronavirus deaths have been in the United States. The pandemic also has taken a devastating toll on our economy and dramatically changed daily life for all Americans. The one thing that will get us back to where we want to be is a safe, effective and widely available vaccine.
On Thursday, I will hold the first congressional hearing focused on the administration’s efforts to develop a COVID-19 vaccine through Operation Warp Speed. This venture is designed to accelerate the development and deployment of a vaccine faster than ever before in our history.
There are more than 100 vaccines in development worldwide. Operation Warp Speed will select five to seven vaccine candidates to advance into clinical trials. As the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) oversees the research and development of these vaccines, manufacturers will begin producing them. This will allow us to have hundreds of millions of doses ready to go as soon as a vaccine is determined to be safe and effective -- months quicker than if we waited until the Food and Drug Administration had approved them.
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We are streamlining the process, not cutting corners on science and safety. Some effort and money will be lost on ideas that don’t pan out, but those products will never be used. That’s the price we must pay to save lives and restore participation in our economy.
Despite the clear and immediate need for a coronavirus vaccine, some are anxious that Operation Warp Speed might move too fast.
I organized Thursday’s hearing to address this concern and provide clear answers on the steps ahead. This is an opportunity for HHS experts to explain to the American people how the development process works, how they will ensure that a vaccine will be safe and how it will be distributed across the country as quickly as possible.
The other issue this hearing must tackle is convincing skeptical Americans to take the vaccine. A poll by the Associated Press found that half of all Americans either said they weren’t sure if they would take a COVID-19 vaccine once it’s available or they would outright refuse. I won’t be one of them. I take a flu shot every year and will definitely take a COVID-19 shot.
Over the years we have won extraordinary victories against devastating diseases like smallpox and polio through vaccination campaigns. But too many people have forgotten or are unaware of the devastation that these diseases caused before we had vaccines for them. We don’t take some vaccines anymore because enough people took them when they were needed.
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Our national struggle against COVID-19 has been a long one, and the American people have been asked to sacrifice a lot to keep themselves and their families safe from this disease. Taking a vaccine will be one more thing we are going to have to do to win a final victory and resume our lives.
Congress has a part to play as well. We made an initial $10 billion investment in vaccine research and development, and we should be ready to provide more if it is needed.
Will some of the vaccine candidates fail? Of course. In science, there is never a straight line to success. But we know we have to invest in this process to get a safe vaccine quickly and as many doses as possible, as soon as possible.
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America’s power of ingenuity is unmatched in the world. There is no other country that is better suited to solve the challenges of developing a vaccine to prevent this terrible disease.
We need a vaccine now, and our country is poised to do it.
CLICK HERE TO READ MORE BY SEN. ROY BLUNT