On May 15 of this year, President Trump announced a program known as Operation Warp Speed. The goal was to have at least one and as many as four COVID vaccines available for use in the US before the end of the year. Although this timeline seemed impossible, Trump made it work.
Most of the knowledgeable experts, including the Center for Disease Control (CDC), said that his goal was impossible. The development, testing, approval, manufacturing and distribution of a new vaccine typically takes many years. No way would any vaccine be available before year-end.
In September, CDC Director Robert Redfield testified at a Senate concerning the timeline for the vaccine and said, “I think we are probably looking at a late second quarter, third quarter 2021.”
Trump responded, “It was an incorrect statement. We are ready at a much faster level than he said.”
Joe Biden responded by saying, “Scientific breakthroughs don’t care about calendars any more than the virus does.”
Prior to the start of Operation Warp Speed, Trump spoke to the executives of at least six major drug companies. The executives assured him that the vaccines they had developed were very effective and were sure to be approved by the FDA as soon as the required clinical trials were completed.
In order to reduce the time for getting the vaccines into the hands of the public, he took an extraordinary gamble. Normally the drug companies wait until they have approval from the FDA before beginning manufacturing. Trump ordered vaccines from six companies before the FDA approval.
That action reduced the distribution time by four to six months, meaning if the FDA approval came in late November or December, the vaccine could be shipped to caregivers, within days of approval. When the first approval came for the Pfizer on Friday, December 11, the vaccines were distributed by the Army supply chain experts. The doses began to be administered on Monday, December 14.
The second vaccine from Moderna, has just been approved, meaning tens of millions of already produced doses will be available and administered immediately. Trump’s bold, albeit very risky, action of ordering months before the final trials were completed, likely saved tens of thousands of lives.
Other vaccines from Johnson and Johnson, Astra-Zeneca, Novavax, Merk and GlaxoSmithKline are in the final stages of the trial process. Trump has ordered tens of millions of doses from these manufacturers so that once the trials are finished and the approval is obtained, the doses can be shipped within days.
Trump’s decisions recognize the difference in the thought process between a businessperson and a career politician or other government worker.
Trump understands the concept of risk, the importance of competition and the profit motive. By ordering doses to be immediately manufactured from half a dozen companies he not only reduced his risk of not developing a vaccine quickly but sped up the timeline. Each company recognized the importance of being the first company to safely and procedurally correctly bring a product to the market.
In the business world that is referred to as the “first-mover advantage.”
Trump’s preapproval purchase virtually eliminated the risk that business normally faces when introducing a new product to the market. For new products companies often move cautiously when determining a timeline and a quantity to produce, simply because they are unsure of the competition’s product and the overall size of the market available to them.
The elimination of risk sped up the commercialization process. Because the virus has infected hundreds of millions of people worldwide, affecting nearly every country on earth, the profit potential was huge. Coupled with the advancements in technology which business has created, the elimination of risk and the huge profit potential resulted in miraculous vaccines that are now ready to end this pandemic.
If a politician was president, the government would work on a new vaccine. There would likely have been only one developed and it would have taken years to commercialize. Hundreds of thousands more people would probably have died. The economy could have sunk into a depression.
The miraculous “Trump vaccines” will put an end to this pandemic in the US by late Spring. Shortly thereafter there will be enough vaccines to end the pandemic worldwide. Instead of blaming him for the deaths the virus has caused, we should be thanking him for his leadership.
Thank you, Mr. President.