HHS Secretary Azar optimistic millions of vaccine doses will be ready by year’s end

With more than 63 million coronavirus tests having been conducted in the US, the Secretary of Health and Human Services is now expressing optimism about the prospect of millions of vaccine doses by year’s end.

“Thanks to President Trump’s leadership of Operation Warp Speed, the last couple of weeks have just been, I think, a couple of the most historic weeks in the history of vaccine development ever,” Secretary Alex Azar told FOX 11’s Elex Michaelson in an exclusive interview on The Issue Is.

Operation Warp Speed was launched by the Trump Administration in May to “accelerate the development, manufacturing, and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics.”

Currently, Azar, who led the White House Coronavirus Task Force from its inception in January through February 26, when Vice President Mike Pence took over, told Michaelson, the government has invested in six vaccine trials. 

US Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar, with US President Donald Trump, speaks on vaccine development on May 15, 2020, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

Listen to the Issue Is Podcast Extra with Secretary Azar 

Those investments have been made with AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, Novavax, Pfizer, and, on July 31, jointly with Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline to the tune of $2.1 billion.

Of those, Azar has some positive updates:

  • Two vaccine candidates are in late-stage clinical trials
  • Two candidates have initiated Phase 3 trials
  • Four of the six candidates have reported positive Phase 1 clinical trial data

“Progress has just been remarkable at this point,” Azar said. “We now stand at a position where it is very credible that by the end of the year, we will have in the high tens of millions of doses of FDA, gold standard, vaccine, and by the beginning of next year, hundreds of millions of doses of vaccines.”

RELATED: HHS Secretary Alex Azar recommends mask use, but not national mandate

Azar’s optimism regarding a vaccine comes days after Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told House Lawmakers that he was “cautiously optimistic” a vaccine may be ready by year’s end.

However, given the usually long process for vaccine development, many on the left have cast doubt over Operation Warp Speed - with presumptive Democratic Presidential nominee Joe Biden last week calling for the process to be “free of political pressure,” saying that scientists and public health experts should make safety and efficacy decisions, not politicians.

In a wide-ranging interview on The Issue Is, Azar also discussed the ongoing debate over face coverings, as well as his recently announced trip to Taiwan, which has already led Chinese officials to claim the US is “endangering peace.”

Azar also encouraged Americans to get involved, either by taking part in vaccine trials, or, if they have had, and since recovered from, COVID-19, to donate their antibody-rich plasma. For more on both, visit coronavirus.gov.

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