US President Donald Trump has vowed to deliver a coronavirus jab by year’s end as he launched a White House vaccine initiative, dubbed “Operation Warp Speed”.
The effort will begin with studies on 14 promising vaccine candidates for accelerated research and approval.
Progress is moving at “record speed”, but the US must be prepared to reopen “vaccine or no vaccine,” Mr Trump said.
Experts have cast doubt on the White House timelines for a jab.
What did Trump say?
Announcing ‘Warp Speed’ at a White House Rose Garden news conference on Friday, Mr Trump named an Army general and a former healthcare executive to lead the operation, a partnership between the government and private sector to find and distribute a vaccine.
Moncef Slaoui, who had previously headed the vaccines division at pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline, will lead the mission, while Gen Gustave Perna, who oversees distribution for the US Army, is to serve as chief operating officer.
Speaking after Mr Trump, Mr Slaoui said he was “confident” that a “few hundred million doses of vaccine” will be delivered by the end of 2020.
However, Mr Trump made clear that even without a vaccine, Americans must begin to return to their lives as normal.
“I don’t want people to think this is all dependent on a vaccine,” he said. Many experts say a vaccine is the only thing that will give Americans the confidence to fully reopen the economy in the absence of widespread testing.
“I think the schools should be back in the fall,” Mr Trump added.
Earlier this week Dr Anthony Fauci, who serves on the coronavirus taskforce and appeared wearing a mask at the Rose Garden conference, testified to the Senate that it would be a “bridge too far” for schools to reopen in the autumn.
Dr Fauci and other experts have strongly suggested that a jab will take at least a year to develop.
As Mr Trump spoke, truck drivers who have parked around the White House for several weeks blared their horns in protest against low wages.
At one point, Mr Trump instructed a reporter to remove her mask so she could be better heard over the noise as she addressed him.