US President Donald Trump officially appointed on Friday Morocco-born immunology expert Moncef Slaoui as head of the White House’s COVID-19 vaccine development team.
Trump announced the appointment during a press briefing in the White House’s Rose Garden.
The White House initiative aims to quickly develop and distribute coronavirus vaccines.
Dr. Slaoui, a former GlaxoSmithKline executive, is “a world-renowned immunologist who helped create 14 new vaccines in 10 years” during his time in the private sector, said President Trump during his briefing.
He is also “one of the most respected men in the world in the production and, really, on the formulation of vaccines”, added Mr. Trump seeking to speed up the vaccine development process for covid-19, by bringing in all the experts across the federal government.
“It’s a great honor and a privilege for me to have the opportunity to serve our country and the world in this remarkable endeavor — extraordinary endeavor — helping them and supporting them to do it”, said Mr. Slaoui, who has a Ph.D. in microbiology and immunology from L’Université Libre de Bruxelles and who completed his postdoctoral studies at Harvard Medical School and Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston.
“The Operation Warp Speed’s objectives are very clear. I believe they are very credible and extremely challenging. However, I am really confident that our team across the many governmental agencies that are involved in these efforts, we’ll be able and we’ll do the utmost to deliver these objectives” said Doctor Slaoui.
“I have very recently seen early data from a clinical trial with a coronavirus vaccine. And this data made me feel even more confident that we will be able to deliver a few hundred million doses of vaccine by the end of 2020”, he added.
Dr Slaoui, who will act as the chief adviser, is joined by four-star Army General Gustave Perna as the chief operating officer overseeing logistics. General Gus Perna currently oversees 190,000 service members, civilians, and contractors as Commander of the US Army Materiel Command.
Slaoui also promised that the team will be optimizing and developing medicines to benefit those who have already contracted the virus. “This will be our focus for 24/7” in the coming months, he said.
As he unveiled Operation Warp Speed, President Trump expressed satisfaction with the progress the US has made in battling COVID-19.
Trump said the objective of Operation Warp Speed is to finish developing, manufacturing, and distributing an effective vaccine for the novel coronavirus.
“We think we are going to have a vaccine in the pretty near future, and if we do, we are going to really be a big step ahead and if we don’t, we are going to be like so many other cases where you had a problem come in, it’ll go away at some point, it’ll go away,” Trump said.
He expressed hope for the team to find a cure for the virus before the end of the year, adding that the US is working with several countries and “great scientists” to develop a vaccine.
CNN reported on May 14 that Operation Warp Speed aims to make 100 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine available by November, 200 million doses by December, and 300 million doses by January 2021.
However, while President Trump is seeking a quick solution to the pandemic, health officials continue to express doubts that scientists working to develop a vaccine could achieve their goal this year.
The US is the global epicenter of the virus, with at least 1.45 million confirmed COVID-19 cases, including 86,607 deaths, as of May 15. Globally, COVID-19 cases stand at 4.48 million, including 304,000 deaths.