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Trump administration pushes for covid-19 therapeutics, prior to vaccines, to meet demand

ANI | Updated: Jul 15, 2020 10:39 IST

Washington D.C. [USA], July 15 (ANI): Facing multiple crises, along with the steep high tally of coronavirus cases which now stands at 3.42 million since the start of the pandemic in the country, senior Trump administration officials are pushing for covid-19 therapeutics by early fall, months before even a vaccine is developed as per the timeline, fearing that the demand could outstrip supply if the pandemic continues to rage, The Washington Post reported.
"Vaccines are the permanent hope for controlling this outbreak, but even with success, some people may not respond to vaccines and some may not get vaccinated, so we are always going to need therapeutics," Janet Woodcock, who is leading the therapeutics effort under Operation Warp Speed and is a senior adviser to the Food and Drug Administration commissioner, said at a briefing on Monday.
Introduced in early April, Operation Warp Speed is a federal government initiative to speed up the development, manufacturing, and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics. It is an interagency program that includes components of the Department of Health and Human Services, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the National Institutes of Health, and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA); the Department of Defense; private firms; and other federal agencies, including the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Energy, and the Department of Veterans Affairs. The project has a budget of at least USD10 billion.

Unlike vaccines, Woodcock said, therapeutics have to be developed against multiple facets of the infection, including antiviral treatments that target the virus and medication that quells the out-of-control immune storm that causes the most severe illness.
In the short term, Woodcock urged Americans who have recently recovered from the coronavirus to donate blood plasma, rich with virus-fighting antibodies, to help other patients.
"We need donors. There are blood drives ongoing, and the US government will be trying to accelerate these drives for convalescent plasma," Woodcock said.
"We need to get the word out nationally, this is something people can do. I think people feel very helpless in the face of this -- and this is something everyone can contribute who has been infected," Woodcock added.
Although it is not yet clear whether the plasma transfusions are effective, they have been shown to be safe in vast numbers of patients and evidence suggests they may help, particularly if given to hospitalized patients early in the disease. Convalescent plasma has been viewed as a bridge to the development of pharmaceutical treatments and vaccines, but there is a relatively narrow window for donation, six to eight weeks after illness, which limits the ability to make transfusions widely available. (ANI)