Rep. Brad Wenstrup, DPM: COVID vaccine -- Operation Warp Speed is unprecedented, shows America at its best

I look forward to receiving a coronavirus vaccine as soon as it is available to me

When COVID-19 first emerged as a global threat, it was truly a "novel" coronavirus. It did not resemble the typical coronaviruses, like the common cold, that regularly circulate.

In so many ways, the scientific community was starting from scratch. The need was urgent. Time was of the essence.

As a physician, soldier, and member of Congress, I have made the health and safety of my fellow Americans a top priority throughout my service.

Without the foundation that health and security provide, we are unable to exercise our fundamental freedoms or do what we do best as American citizens: innovate, create opportunities, and build a better, brighter future.

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These are very same strengths that we have harnessed through Operation Warp Speed (OWS), empowering the scientific community to achieve historic breakthroughs in record time in the fight against the novel coronavirus.

On May 16, 2020, President Donald Trump launched OWS with the goal of delivering a safe and effective vaccine against this new coronavirus by the end of the year.

Now, due to these unprecedented efforts to harness the full might of the federal government, private sector, military, and scientific community, we are on the verge of achieving that goal.

This year has been deeply challenging for our nation. Yet, we have a concrete reason for hope on the horizon.

In less than a year, we now have multiple prospective vaccines that have demonstrated 90-95 percent efficacy in late-stage trials with plans for immediate distribution coming into place. Already, tens of thousands of American citizens from all walks of life have volunteered for and participated in the trials. I, along with my fellow Doctors Caucus members and most in the medical community, have committed to taking it.

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To put into perspective how momentous this achievement is, our fastest vaccine ever developed before Operation Warp Speed was for the mumps, which took four years.

We do not have four years to wait. With rising rates of depression, substance abuse, suicide, and other mental illnesses, coupled with numerous undiagnosed and untreated medical conditions, we need a holistic approach to health in America that limits collateral damage. We need to restore our way of life, not irreparably destroy it.

Thanks to Operation Warp Speed, that is exactly what we are doing.

Over the past year, we've cut red tape without cutting any corners. We've prioritized collaboration and reduced bureaucratic delays.

We've accelerated the timeline, while ensuring any vaccine the FDA approves will have undergone the same rigorous screenings for quality, safety, and efficacy as any other vaccine.

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As with all clinical trials that seek FDA approval, it is the Independent Data and Safety Monitoring Board that attests to all results.

Over the next two weeks, the FDA will consider granting Emergency Use Authorizations for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine candidates – both of which have demonstrated over 90 percent efficacy. Each vaccine candidate enrolled between 30,000 and 50,000 participants in their trials and ensured meaningful representation of all racial and ethnic minorities.

If the FDA gives the green light, doses will immediately be distributed to those most at-risk: health care workers and senior citizens.

The Department of Defense has been working with states, territories, tribes, and localities for months on distribution plans.

You can take my word for it that there are no better large-scale logistics experts than in the U.S. military, which excels at getting what we need, where we need it, anywhere in the world.

Because of unprecedented investment by the government, we were able to simultaneously manufacture the vaccine as it was going through the trial process, allowing us to produce millions of doses that are ready to go.

We are now prepared to ship vaccine doses to every zip code in America within 24 hours of an Emergency Use Authorization.

According to estimates by Operation Warp Speed chief advisor Dr. Moncef Slaoui, we are on track to provide vaccines to 20-40 million Americans by the end of the year, with tens of millions more per month following.

I look forward to receiving a vaccine as soon as it is available to me. While I don’t believe the federal government should – or will – mandate vaccines, I encourage all Americans to gather the facts, talk to their doctors and get vaccinated to protect themselves, their loved ones, and their communities.

What originally appeared to be a highly ambitious goal is now on the verge of completion.

Every American citizen, regardless of political persuasion, should be impressed and filled with gratitude toward the countless doctors, scientists, researchers, and those who volunteered for trials, as well as the Trump administration officials who convened Operation Warp Speed.

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This year has been deeply challenging for our nation. Yet, we have a concrete reason for hope on the horizon.

We can, and will, restore our way of life, rebuild the greatest economy in history, renew the American Dream, and provide hope for the world.

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