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‘Operation Warp Speed’

By David Kruse - Columnist“Operation Warp Speed” did give Covid-19 vaccine a boost in reaching the public but it was far from being the ‘Manhatta | Jan 5, 2021

“Operation Warp Speed” did give Covid-19 vaccine a boost in reaching the public but it was far from being the ‘Manhattan Project’, in terms of government producing a new technological achievement. Pfizer is the first company to get a vaccine cleared through FDA and the contribution of the federal government to it reaching the regulatory process could be termed as, “not much”. The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) laid out the history of how this developed. Pfizer did not participate in ‘Operation Warp Speed’ in that they developed the vaccine in a partnership with their own technology with their own money. They did not even show up at Donald J. Trump’s (DJT’s) recent ‘Warp Speed’ adoration ceremony at the White House. Money and contributions from the government come with strings attached and Pfizer did not want those restraints on what they did. They had the technology for this new kind of messaging RNA vaccine. Claims that, without “Operation Warp Speed”, it would have taken 4-5 years to develop this vaccine are bogus and self-serving. It may well have taken that long using the old technology for how vaccines were previously developed but mRNA technology provided the short cut. What previously took years was accomplished in months. They did not develop this technology in response to Covid. The R&D had already been accomplished. It just took a few months to plug the Covid sequences into the model, determine what protein would best trigger the most effective immune response and then go through the trials necessary to document the efficacy and risk of side effects. Pfizer was in the right place at the right time with the right stuff to deliver the vaccine being administered today. DJT had absolutely nothing to do with what Pfizer accomplished. His claim of credit is another example of creating a parade and then getting out in from of the band leading it. Because of Pfizer, the FDA had something to put through trials and the military had a vaccine that they could deliver to the states. This was a remarkable accomplishment but if any individual is to get the credit, it should be Pfizer CEO Albert Bouria. He will give credit to the Pfizer team. He asked them for a miracle and they delivered.

Unlike previous virus development there is no virus, live-modified or otherwise, in this vaccine. It is made of molecules that carry the coding sequences for protein synthesis. This new vaccine technology had an enormous impact minimizing the health risk and the amount of time it took to get from viral sequence selection to phase 1 vaccine studies. That is where the years compressed to months. Pfizer invested $2 billion of its own money into this effort to produce Covid vaccine. The base technology came from BioNTech, a small biotech company in Germany that partnered with Pfizer. There is actually some irony in that the origination of the technology was German. In John Barry’s book, The Great Influenza (1918), he noted that Germany was essentially the center of the Universe for medical research in that era. U.S. doctors studied in Germany and there essentially were no medical research hospitals in the U.S. at that time. Johns Hopkins, which is most cited for Covid tracking data today, was the first comprehensive research practicing medical hospital to be built in the U.S. and most others fashioned themselves from that. Johns Hopkins has been at this for a very long time so when deniers denigrate them or their work, at least I know who the fools are.

Moderna should be the second pharmaceutical company to get a Covid vaccine approved by FDA. That vaccine is also mRNA technology. The WSJ wrote, “To assemble its mRNA production network, Pfizer used its own money and didn’t take any from the federal government. Executives said they didn’t want to give agencies outside the FDA more leverage over the design of the trials.

Rival Moderna, which took funding from a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, suffered a three-week delay in completing its own mRNA trial after federal officials there asked the company to slow down enrollment to boost the racial and ethnic diversity of study subjects.” Both companies had to work with the FDA but Pfizer was not hamstrung by that as much as was Moderna.

In other words, by participating in ‘Operation Warp Speed’ it slowed Moderna down so that the Pfizer vaccine passed the finish line first. There is a large segment of the population today that says that development and testing of this vaccine was “rushed” and that they will not take it. When DJT orders the FDA “to approve the damn vaccine”, that actually undermines public confidence in the safety. That gives the public reason to assume there was political meddling, cutting corners, in the science-based process. I do not think that is the case but once made skeptical, the public is hard to convince otherwise. DJT needs to put as much effort into convincing the public to accept the vaccine as he has in claims made taking the credit for it. 70% of the public needs immunization in order to achieve herd immunity. It was not rushed. It is here as soon as it is by the godsend of it being new technology. The fact that it is new technology also contributes to wavering public confidence in its safety. To me the risk to my life from Covid is far, far greater than to an FDA approved vaccine to protect me from it. The way the number of confirmed cased are soaring, hospitalizations are overwhelming health resources and the way the dead are piling up, I suspect others will come to the same conclusion.

CommStock Investments Inc., author and producer of The CommStock Report, an ag commentary and market analysis available daily by radio and by subscription on DTN/FarmDayta and the Internet.

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