Trump Takes Vaccine Victory Lap, Boosting Shots Confidence

WASHINGTON (AP) -
President Donald Trump speaks during an “Operation Warp Speed Vaccine Summit” on the White House complex, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

President Donald Trump celebrated the expected approval of the first U.S. vaccine for the coronavirus as the White House worked on Tuesday to instill confidence in the massive distribution effort.

Trump declared that the expected approvals are coming before most people thought possible. “They say it’s somewhat of a miracle and I think that’s true,” Trump said.

He led the event celebrating “Operation Warp Speed,” his administration’s effort to produce and distribute safe and effective vaccines for COVID-19. The first vaccine, from drugmaker Pfizer, is expected to receive endorsement by a panel of Food and Drug Administration advisers as soon as this week, with delivery of 100 million doses — enough for 50 million Americans — expected in coming months.

“Every American who wants the vaccine will be able to get the vaccine and we think by spring we’re going to be in a position nobody would have believed possible just a few months ago,” Trump said.

Trump and his aides hope the event will tamp down skepticism among some Americans about the vaccine and help build the Republican president’s legacy.

The “Operation Warp Speed” summit featured Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and a host of government experts, state leaders and business executives, as the White House looks to explain that the vaccine is safe and lay out the administration’s plans to bring it to the American people.

The Trump administration insists that between the Pfizer vaccine, another vaccine from drugmaker Moderna and others in the pipeline, the U.S. will be able to accommodate any American who wants to be vaccinated by the end of the second quarter of 2021.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told NBC the administration is “continuing to work across manufacturers to expand the availability of releasable, of FDA-approved vaccine as quickly as possible. … We do still have that option for an additional 500 million doses.”

The Food and Drug Administration’s panel of outside vaccine experts is to meet Thursday to conduct a final review of the Pfizer drug, and it will meet later this month on the Moderna vaccine. The FDA is not required to follow the panel’s advice, though it usually does.

Agency decisions on the two drugs are expected within days of each meeting. Both have been determined to be 95% effective against the virus that causes COVID-19. Plans call for distributing and then administering about 40 million doses of the two companies’ vaccines by the end of the year — with the first doses shipping within hours of FDA clearance.

Each of the forthcoming vaccines has unique logistical challenges related to distribution and administration. The Pfizer vaccine must be transported at super-cooled temperatures, and comes in batches of 975 doses. Each vial contains five doses, requiring careful planning. The administration has prepared detailed videos for providers on how to safely prepare and administer doses, to be posted after the FDA issues its emergency use authorization.