Trump pushing officials to speed up already-ambitious coronavirus vaccine timeline

In a meeting last month with Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar — who is overseeing the effort called Operation Warp Speed, along with Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper — Trump pushed Azar repeatedly to speed up the already unprecedented timeline, according to two senior White House officials familiar with the meeting who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations. Trump wants some people to be able to get the vaccine sooner than the end of the year to demonstrate an end to the pandemic is within reach, according to those officials and two others.

The push — which has provoked deep concerns among some scientists — comes as Trump encourages states to reopen even as coronavirus cases are rising in Southern and Western states. This week alone, nine states — Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina and Texas — have reported a record number of new coronavirus cases in a single day or set a record for seven-day case averages, according to a Washington Post analysis…

Some go so far as to raise concerns about an “October surprise” in which the administration issues an emergency authorization for a vaccine right before the Nov. 3 election, regardless of whether the research justifies it.

“What worries me is we are coming up to an election, and the administration might be tempted to put its hand into the Warp Speed bucket, and say, ‘We have enough information, let’s just give it now,’ ” said Paul Offit, a vaccine expert at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia who is an adviser to the National Institutes of Health effort on vaccines.