Operation Warp Speed: 4 Questions (and Answers) About the COVID-19 Vaccine

Here are four questions about the COVID-19 vaccine, answered by retired Army Lieutenant General Paul Ostrowski of Operation Warp Speed.


Air Date: January 6, 2021

Moderator: Suzanne P. Clark, President and CEO, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Featured Guests: Lieutenant General Paul A. Ostrowski, Retired, United States Army

With the COVID-19 vaccine being rolled out across the United States, there is optimism that the country could look like its normal self in the near future. Typically, vaccines can take years to research and develop. The current batch of coronavirus vaccines only took a matter of months, making it a miracle of modern medicine. Still, there is some skepticism and questions over the vaccine.

In the spring of 2020, the federal government created Operation Warp Speed to combat the virus. They worked tirelessly since the start of the pandemic to coordinate vaccine development and distribution. Retired Army Lieutenant General Paul Ostrowski has been one of the leads on that process.

To address the concerns regarding the COVID-19 vaccine, he recently spoke with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. Here are four questions about the COVID-19 vaccine that Lieutenant General Ostrowski has put to rest.

How is the COVID-19 Vaccine Distributed?

“Once the FDA gives the [verdict] for us to move forward with an emergency use authorization, the first thing that happens is that the production of those vaccines continues,” Ostrowski said. “Once the vaccines are releasable, the 64 jurisdictions have the opportunity to then order those particular vaccines based on a fair and equitable distribution across all 64 jurisdictions.”

After the jurisdictions order their supply of the vaccines, they’re shipped in specialized packaging through UPS and FedEx working through federal contracts. Once they’re delivered, it’s up to local authorities to determine who gets the vaccine and how it’s distributed.

“The States understand their populations [and] know what their priorities are,” Ostrowski said. “The best way to do it [is through] centralized planning and decentralized execution of the actual administration.”

Can I Trust the COVID-19 Vaccine?

Ostrowski noted that the U.S. has many leading scientists and pharmaceutical companies in the world, which is reassuring when deciding whether the vaccine is safe and effective.

In terms of the extensive clinical trials for the COVID vaccine, “[We’ve had] 30,000 participants or more per clinical trial, each of which got either the placebo or the actual vaccine … We've got the science that backed it,” Ostrowski added. “Fifteen years’ worth of science and research, if not more, went into these vaccines that we’re in a process of manufacturing today."

When Will the General Public Be Able to Get Vaccinated for COVID-19?

“Working with the advisory committee on immunization practices, we've got the groups,” said Ostrowski. “[1A is] healthcare workers and long-term health care facilities and skilled nursing facilities. The next group is [1B], which are essential workers along with the elderly 75 and older.”

“[As far as] the rest of America, I can anticipate that being at the latter part of March [or] early April when we particularly bring those particular groups in, because we still have a little bit more of group one to go,” he added.

When Will the United States Reach Herd Immunity from COVID-19?

In order to truly return the country to normal, people need to reach a herd immunity to COVID-19. However, this will take time — especially if people are unwilling to be vaccinated.

“Dr. Fucci says somewhere between 70% to 80% of Americans … [must] either [get] a vaccine or [get] the actual disease itself in order for us to be able to reach that herd immunity piece,” said Ostrowski.

“Our intent is to ensure that we vaccinate everyone, even those [who] have already had COVID … because we just don't have any idea whether or not COVID could be [recurring], whether we are going to need yearly boosters and those kinds of things.”



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