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Trump hopeful to have vaccine by end of year

President Donald Trump speaks at May 15 news conference.
President Donald Trump speaks at May 15 news conference. (WhiteHouse.gov)

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump said Friday that he’s hopeful to have a coronavirus vaccine on the market by the end of the year or shortly thereafter.

Moncep Slaoui, a former pharmaceutical executive who Trump has tapped to serve as the administration’s virus czar, said that early trial data suggests that “a few hundred million doses of vaccine” will be delivered by late 2020.

Trump, speaking at a Rose Garden event, reiterated that he wants to see states move forward with reopening their economies.

“We are back, vaccine or no vaccine,” Trump said.

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.”