Today’s entry: I was glad to hear President Trump take credit for the vaccines at CPAC. Something I haven’t heard though is how it compares to other vaccines. The experts said it’d take at least two years and Trump said something about five years in his speech.
Bottom Line: As you mentioned President Trump took credit for the three COVID vaccines developed in under a year. President Trump’s Operation Warp Speed initiative is arguably the most effective public-private partnership in American history, aside from the World War II effort. To have not one but three vaccines developed and proven to be safe and effective in under a year is a modern scientific miracle. To answer your question, the previous record speed from the point of diagnosis of a new contagion, to the development of a distributed vaccine is four years. Four years! It was the mumps vaccine in the 1960’s. What’s more is what’s happened here will shape the future for all future vaccines.
Tasked with saving lives in the worst pandemic in 102 years, combined with a mandate to have a vaccine by the end of the year, scientists used new methods, called platforming which will likely be replicated for most future vaccines, forever speeding up vaccination developments. The platforming method takes vaccines used to combat other viruses, in the case of the COVID vaccines, it was MERS and SARS, and introduces the new genetic information from COVID-19. Rather than creating a vaccine from scratch, they were able to take the basis of existing vaccines and modify them for the new contagion.
So, as incredible as Operation Warp Speed proved to be for COVID, it's forever going to have positive health implications. This is even more impressive against the backdrop of what’s typical. Remember, the previous record was 4 years, the average length of time from the time of discovery until the deployment of an effective vaccine has historically been ten years, with some vaccines taking up to 15 years. The five years the President cited came from some of the earliest accounts by medical experts given to him about how long it might take. The loose original guidance to President Trump was along the lines of – even if we halve the length of time to produce a new vaccine it’d still take five years.
What you saw with President Trump’s line in the sand regarding the development of a COVID vaccine with a robust public-private partnership was his equivalent of JFK’s “We choose to go to the Moon” movement. Sometimes it takes leaders throwing down the gauntlet and laying the groundwork to make happen to overcome those who’re tasked with doing it say can’t be done.
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