Trump to name former pharma exec as vaccine czar

Politics

President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum and Colorado Gov. Jared Polis on the coronavirus response, in the Cabinet Room of the White House, Wednesday, May 13, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is set to name a former pharmaceutical executive to lead his administration’s all-out effort to produce and distribute a coronavirus vaccine by the end of the year.

Moncef Slaoui, a former GlaxoSmithKline executive, will lead “Operation Warp Speed,” Trump’s push to accelerate the vaccine development process for COVID-19, according to an administration official. Slaoui is to serve in a volunteer capacity, and will be assisted by Army Gen. Gustave Perna, the commander of United States Army Materiel Command.

The move comes as the president and White House aides hope to produce vaccines for the coronavirus faster than what many scientists believe is realistic. The administration is aiming to have 300 million doses to distribute to Americans by the end of the year, believing a reliable vaccine is the only way to promote an economic rebound.

“Operation Warp Speed” is operating largely independently of the existing White House coronavirus task force, which is also shifting its focus toward vaccine development.

The initiative is being promoted by White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, and involves officials from the Defense Department and the Department of Health and Human Services.

On Tuesday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, said a vaccine would not be available by the beginning of the next academic year.

“The idea of having treatments available or a vaccine to facilitate re-entry of students into the fall term would be something that would be a bit of a bridge too far,” he said, “even at the top speed we’re going.”

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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