By Marguerite Cleveland
The Department of Defense (DoD) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have key roles in Operation Warp Speed (OWS) which is a partnership among the two to engage private firms with other federal agencies to accelerate the production of COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics. This will enhance HHS’s current efforts. There are many promising actions taking place.
The DoD recently awarded a $42 million contract to Curative Inc to manufacture 250,000 of their oral fluid swab test kits which are for 100 military treatment facilities. This will increase the testing capability across the DoD and provide a less invasive method of testing for COVID-19. The test is an oral swab of the mouth versus the painful nose swab. “This is an important capability that will strengthen our medical professionals’ ability to detect, isolate and defeat the spread of COVID-19 across the military,” said Maj. Gen. Lee Payne, the DOD’s COVID-19 Lab Testing Task Force lead. “The ability to reliably test service members and their families is critical towards securing our forces’ health and readiness.”
“It’s no coincidence we had the right innovation network in place to source and scale this test at battlefield speeds,” said Dr. Will Roper, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics. “Evolving national security challenges require new and enduring partnerships with commercial innovators. We had the right people and mechanisms in place to move out on this exceptional testing capability for the Department of Defense.”
Also, in the works are ramping up the purchase of necessary supplies needed to administer a future vaccine for COVID-19. On August 4, 2020, the DoD and HHS awarded a $104 million contract to procure syringes and safety needles for the HHS Strategic National Stockpile. This will provide a total of 500 million safety syringes in a 12 month period with 134 million scheduled to be delivered by the end of the year.
“This effort demonstrates skillful collaboration between the interagency and our industry partners, and moves the nation farther forward in its fight against COVID-19,” said Joint Program Executive Officer for Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defense, Douglas Bryce. “Immediate procurement and prepositioning of syringes will enable rapid vaccination of the U.S. population once an FDA-approved vaccine becomes available. We are pleased to be part of this unprecedented and critical undertaking.”
HHS and the DoD recently announced an agreement with the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson for the manufacturing and delivery of the company’s COVID-19 candidate. Under the agreement the U.S. government will own the 100 million doses of the vaccine which will be used in clinical trials or distributed as part of a COVID-19 vaccination campaign if approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
“With the portfolio of vaccines being assembled for OWS, the Trump Administration is increasing the likelihood that the United States will have at least one safe, effective vaccine by 2021,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar. “Today’s investment represents the next step in supporting Janssen’s vaccine candidate all the way through manufacturing, with the potential to bring hundreds of millions of safe and effective doses to the American people.”
While the clinical trials are underway, the company will be working on a manufacturing demonstration project which by working parallel will help speed up the traditional vaccine development timeline. This will help the federal government’s goal with OWS to be able to deliver millions of doses of a safe vaccine to the American People by the end of the year.
There are many promising vaccines and therapeutics on the horizon which hopefully will bring an end to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Marguerite Cleveland is a freelance writer who specializes in human interest and travel stories. She is a military brat, a veteran and now a military spouse. Her military experience is vast as the daughter of a Navy man who served as an enlisted sailor and then Naval Officer. She served as an enlisted soldier in the reserves and on active duty, then as an Army Officer. She currently serves as a military spouse. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two sons. Visit her website www.PeggyWhereShouldIGo.com