DOD's new vaccine role still being finalized

By Tony Bertuca / May 21, 2020 at 12:58 PM

The Trump administration is planning to release further details soon on the Defense Department's role in "Operation Warp Speed," the federal effort aimed at developing and distributing a COVID-19 vaccine.

Jonathan Hoffman, the Pentagon's chief spokesman, said guidance and implementation documents are in the works now between DOD and the Health and Human Services Department.

Trump last week named Army Materiel Command chief Gen. Gus Perna to the Operation Warp Speed leadership team. Perna will be working with venture capitalist Moncef Slaoui, the former head of GlaxoSmithKline's vaccines division, who will be the program's chief adviser.

Hoffman said DOD is in the process of staffing Perna's team and developing the methodology to begin "flowing resources" to it, though nothing is "down on paper" yet.

DOD, according to the Trump administration, will be responsible for the mass production and distribution of a vaccine in the event one or more of several ongoing efforts is successful.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper has promised a vaccine by January 2021, though experts have signaled skepticism.

The COVID-19 pandemic, meanwhile, has killed roughly 90,000 people in the United States and more than 300,000 worldwide and has sent much of the global economy into a tailspin.