Operation Warp Speed: Trump’s Accelerated Solution to COVID-19

Trump’s plan to beat the pandemic raises concerns of its technical difficulty

Key Actors:
  • President Trump; President of the United States 
  • Dr. Moncef Slaoui; Chief Advisor of the Operation Warp Speed
  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
  • Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
  • National Institutes of Health (NIH)
  • Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA)
  • U.S. Department of Defense (DoD)

A week ago, President Trump launched “Operation Warp Speed”—a term borrowed from Star Trek—to describe the promising record speed of vaccine development and production. Operation Warp Speed is a public-private partnership that will facilitate the development, testing, approval, and production of the coronavirus vaccine within a timeframe of 12 to 18 months. 

Who is involved?

As of May 15th, President Trump has already appointed Dr. Moncef Slaoui, former chairman of Global Research and Development and chairman of Global Vaccines at GlaxoSmithKline. Under the leadership of Dr. Slaoui, Operation Warp Speed will be divided into three focus areas: development, manufacturing, and distribution. The coordination will involve the HHS, CDC, FDA, NIH, BARDA, DoD, private firms, and other federal agencies including the Department of Agriculture, Department of Energy, and Department of Veterans Affairs.

Update on the Progress

The initiative’s momentum seems to pick up the pace when Moderna, a Boston based biotech company, unveiled positive results from small vaccine trials, and another vaccine developed by AstraZeneca could have their products delivered by October if their trials are successful. This news seems to benefit Trump’s plans and offer some hope to citizens who are desperate to leave the lockdown and to investors waiting for the economic reboot. 

According to Trump’s coronavirus vaccine project, 14 vaccine candidates have already been identified and more trials are expected to be done in order to narrow down the options to three or four in the final stage. However, the efficiency of the process depends on how the testing and clinical trials proceed and their success rate. 

Reactions and Skepticisms of the Plan

Although the plan shows promising outcomes, many are skeptical of whether this plan is feasible: Dr. Rick Bright, the ousted director of the government Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), told Congress, “there is no guarantee that the vaccine will actually be effective.” Many scientists are not confident with the enthusiasm of the plan, rather suggesting that the vaccine could take much longer as little is known about the virus and how the human body will react with attempts of immunisation. 

On the favourable side, the Trump administration is committed to bringing the cost of these countermeasures low for the American people. The companies that are partaking in Operation Warp Speed will provide a donation allocation of countermeasures developed, including the eventual vaccine. Operation Warp Speed will be a very costly plan, and although there has been some subsidisation by the companies, the taxpayers might as well carry the rest of the financial burden. 


Division, News. “Trump Administration Announces Framework and Leadership for ‘Operation Warp Speed.’” HHS.Gov, 15 May 2020, https://www.hhs.gov/about/news/2020/05/15/trump-administration-announces-framework-and-leadership-for-operation-warp-speed.html.

Kuchler, Hannah. Scientists vs Politicians: The Reality Check for ‘Warp Speed’ Vaccine Research | Free to Read. 22 May 2020, https://www.ft.com/content/1467b1da-28a5-47d4-a5e2-a6f4b68484c3.

Smith, David. “Trump Unveils ‘warp-Speed’ Effort to Create Coronavirus Vaccine by Year’s End.” The Guardian, 16 May 2020. www.theguardian.com, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/may/15/trump-coronavirus-warp-speed-vaccine-white-house.

CNN, Chandelis Duster and Jim Acosta. “Trump Administration’s ‘Operation Warp Speed’ Identifies 14 Vaccines to Focus On.” CNN, https://www.cnn.com/2020/05/04/politics/operation-warp-speed-coronavirus-vaccines/index.html. Accessed 25 May 2020.

Weise, Elizabeth. “Operation Warp Speed Faces Scrutiny in Race for Coronavirus Vaccine.” USA TODAY, https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2020/05/24/coronavirus-vaccine-covid-19-operation-warp-speed-moncef-slaoui/5242123002/. Accessed 25 May 2020.


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