Top Republicans on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions and Armed Services Committees urged President Joe Biden to re-establish Operation Warp Speed to develop new vaccines and medical products that can counter the ongoing COVID-19 and future pandemics.
“Operation Warp Speed was a singular, history-making success – harnessing American innovation, bolstered by the support of the federal government, to bring effective COVID-19 vaccines from idea to reality in a matter in months. Unfortunately, the Biden administration inexplicably gutted this program, leaving us steps behind as new variants continue to pop up,” Senators Burr and Inhofe said. “A change in administration doesn’t need to mean a complete reversal of key policies and programs. Instead of rejecting a significant achievement of his predecessor, President Biden should build on the successes of Operation Warp Speed. With the acceleration of new vaccines and therapeutics, we can turn the page on this terrible pandemic once and for all – a goal we know President Biden shares.”
In a letter to President Biden, the senators asked him to submit to Congress a “concrete proposal” to establish an “Operation Warp Speed 2.0” by the end of the year. This proposal would: outline the successes of President Trump’s Operation Warp Speed; create a plan to replicate it; describe how the Departments of Defense and Health and Human Service could support this effort; and develop a structure for a public-private partnership to avoid placing the full burden of cost on the American taxpayer.
“[T]he federal government is not reacting with sufficient urgency to new variants of COVID-19,” the senators wrote. “Bottom line: Operation Warp Speed was the most successful public health program since small pox. It saved millions of lives, and it should be resurrected as soon as possible.”
The full text of the letter can be found here or below.
Dear Mr. President:
The tragedy of the COVID-19 pandemic has touched the lives of every American, but it has also revealed some of America’s greatest strengths. In 2020, American scientists and biopharmaceutical industry achieved a success on par with the Manhattan Project or the Apollo Program. It was called Operation Warp Speed, and it saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans and millions around the world.
The original COVID-19 vaccines were quickly developed, tested, approved and delivered — not by chance, but by a coordinated policy effort of your predecessor’s administration. This effort cut regulatory red tape, reduced risk and uncertainty, mobilized military operational capacity, and set a clear target for the private sector to hit.
Unfortunately, the original vaccines have limitations: they do not successfully prevent transmission of new COVID variants, and the protection they offer vaccinated Americans against severe COVID cases is declining. Most worrying: since early 2021, the pace with which new variants emerge has increased substantially, and the likelihood that the existing vaccines will be ineffective against future variants is constantly growing.
This is why we need a Warp Speed 2.0 to develop better vaccines. In particular, intranasal products that reduce transmission and pan-coronavirus approaches that provide durable protection against the emergence of new variants could let us turn the page completely on COVID-19 and help other countries do the same. There are promising efforts to achieve these goals, led by American scientists, businesses and the military, but your administration has neither prioritized them nor charted a clear path for their delivery.
The team that led Operation Warp Speed has been disbanded, and the federal government is not reacting with sufficient urgency to new variants of COVID-19. We strongly urge your Administration provide to Congress by the end of this year a concrete proposal for an “Operation Warp Speed 2.0.” This would rapidly accelerate the development and deployment of the next generation of medical products needed to defend America from COVID-19 and future pandemics. We believe such a proposal should include:
- A review of the essential components that made Operation Warp Speed so successful, along with lessons learned;
- A plan for replicating Warp Speed’s process of accelerated regulatory consideration to make sure FDA review does not delay the development process;
- A clear description of both how the Departments of Defense and Health and Human Services could be utilized to execute the program and how Warp Speed approaches can be applied to pandemic and biodefense priorities in the future; and
- A structure for a public-private partnership that effectively mobilizes funding from philanthropic and other outside sources to ensure the burden of development does not fall disproportionately on the American taxpayer.
Bottom line: Operation Warp Speed was the most successful public health program since small pox. It saved millions of lives, and it should be resurrected as soon as possible.