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Head of Operation Warp Speed says he believes pandemic could be under control by next flu season 


The chief of the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed says he believes the coronavirus pandemic could be under control in the US by next flu season.

Dr Moncef Slaoui leads the government’s plan to fast-track the production of 300 million vaccine doses in America by 2021.

In an appearance on The Dr Oz Show on Thursday, Slaoui said he expects that, when a COVID-19 jab is eventually available, it will be between 80 percent and 90 percent effective.

This can lead to herd immunity, in which enough people are vaccinated so that a disease is unable to spread, especially among high-risk groups.

He also added that the US has plenty of experiencing distributing hundreds of millions of flu shots doses every year and, therefore, can easily dispense coronavirus vaccines across the country.

Dr Moncef Slaoui, the chief of Operation Warp Speed (upper left), said in an appearance on the Dr Oz Show on Thursday that he expects, when a coronavirus vaccine is available, it will be 80% to 90% effective

Dr Moncef Slaoui, the chief of Operation Warp Speed (upper left), said in an appearance on the Dr Oz Show on Thursday that he expects, when a coronavirus vaccine is available, it will be 80% to 90% effective

As Americans get immunized, the population will develop herd immunity, which could get the pandemic under control by next flu season, Slaoui said. Pictured: MP Kemi Badenoch takes part in Novavax's vaccine trial in London, October 13

As Americans get immunized, the population will develop herd immunity, which could get the pandemic under control by next flu season, Slaoui said. Pictured: MP Kemi Badenoch takes part in Novavax’s vaccine trial in London, October 13

The host, Dr Mehmet Oz, asked Slaoui if people would feel safe resuming daily activies with a vaccine that is only 50 perfect effective.

‘Well, let me say, really, my expectation is absolutely not 50 percent. However, my expectation as a scientist and experienced in this field is frankly, anything between 80 and 90 percent, would not surprise me,’ Slaoui said. 

‘That’s what they expect, I really hope it’s 90 percent or even more. If maybe 80 percent, that’s a very high level of efficacy. 

‘That’s efficacy against disease. What will happen if we immunize the whole of the population is we create what people talk about, which is herd immunity and there would be less and less circulating virus around.’    

Slaoui added that the US has the ‘capabilities, capacities and networks’ to distribute a coronavirus vaccine and practice from distributing 100 million to 140 million doses of the flu jab every year.

‘[W]e distribute 100 million doses of flu vaccine in a period of two months or three months,’ he said.  

‘I feel quite comfortable that using the current structure, with the Department of Defense’s exquisite planning and logistic expertise, this should be pretty smooth.’ 

Oz noted that the various vaccines in development around the world have different storage requirements.  

Most of the vaccines being tested, such as by Sanofi and Novavax, can be stored at refrigerated temperatures for months.

But both Pfizer and Moderna, which are using messenger RNA – or part of the virus’s genetic code in their vaccine candidates – say vials have to be stored between -94F (-70C) and -112F (-80C).

In fact, Pfizer has said its jab can be stored refrigerated temps for no more than 48 hours.

Additionally, the pharmaceutical company says it has developed special thermal boxes in which to transport its vaccine candidate that could hold up to 5,000 doses for 10 days.

However, the boxes should not be opened more than twice a day and for no more than one minute at a time. 

Slaoui admitted that these challenges do present logistical issues but says it could lead to hundreds of people being vaccinated in one day.

‘[S]o far, for the Pfizer vaccine, it is indeed the most challenging, but also, Pfizer has done extraordinary work to design their packaging system in a way that allows to transport the vaccine at minus-80 degrees Celsius,’ he said.  

‘The Pfizer vaccine storage conditions are such that the best use of that vaccine will be, for instance, in what I would call mass simultaneous immunization, where you would have 100, 200, 500 people that can be immunized in a single day in the same site.

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